Dreger: Blues, Maple Leafs potentially linked in trade chatter

The St. Louis Blues have enjoyed good luck trading with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the recent past – Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak anyone? Anybody? Hello? – so it makes sense that Doug Armstrong and company might be interested in transacting with the Maple Leafs again in the not too distant future.

Beyond the respective club’s recent transaction logs, the two teams could fit as trade partners simply because of where they’re at in their respective rebuilding cycles. The Maple Leafs, as we know, are in long-term thinking mode, if not all-out tear down mode. The Blues meanwhile have been knocking on the door for a few years, but haven’t been out of the second round yet. Potential buyer, meet potential seller.

Let’s get into it further on the other side of the jump.

This ripe discussion topic comes to us courtesy of TSN’s Darren Dreger, who floated the possibility of the Blues and the Maple Leafs as potential trade partners in an appearance on TSN 1050 on Monday. The transcription comes courtesy of Chris Nichols of NicholsonHockey.com, essentially the mainstream blogosphere’s answer to Hope Smoke:

I still think there’s reason to link the Toronto Maple Leafs and the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis is a team that’s very much a contending team and they’d like to add a body. They have interest in Antoine Vermette, but I’m sure they have interest in other forwards around the league – and initially had some interest in Joffrey Lupul. Their concern is again pretty clear, and that’s his health and the fact that he can’t sustain a good attendance record because of injury. But Doug Armstrong and Marty Brodeur were watching that game the other night in Philadelphia pretty closely. So I’m sure they’re looking at a lot of pieces, not just Joffrey Lupul.

The logic behind trading Lupul is obvious. The skilled, percentage driving right wing is extremely useful (if limited defensively) when he’s healthy and in the lineup. He’s fun to watch and marketable too. Unfortunately he hasn’t played in more than 70 games in a single season since 2008-09, or eight seasons ago. 

His injury history has the variety of the iTunes store too – upper and lower body, bruised foot, knee surgery, concussion, forearm injury, separated shoulder – so it’s not like he’s dealing with a congenital or degenerative ailment. Durability is a skill though, and it’s one Lupul doesn’t have. 

Which is very inconvenient from a Maple Leafs perspective, particularly since Lupul has been limited to only 28 games this season and is signed for three more seasons after this one with an annual average value (or cap-hit) of $5.25 million, according to NHLNumbers.com

Now, as for why Lupul might interest the Blues, that’s another matter. Perhaps Armstrong is trying to kill head coach Ken Hitchcock, who has rarely met an odd-man rush that didn’t make him long for a line change.

In all seriousness, the Blues are deep as anything at forward, and Hitchcock has loosened the reigns a bit to facilitate a more aggressive offensive attack. Its worked. Only two teams are scoring more goals per game than the Blues are, which has allowed St. Louis to improve on their overall shot differential (on a per game basis) even as they’ve lost a couple of Corsi For percentage points over last season.

What would make more sense for the Blues is to chase a player on an expiring deal like Daniel Winnik, or Mike Santorelli, or Cody Franson (though the Blues are deep on defense, they also have Chris Butler logging major minutes, so…). St. Louis has already made a move to bolster the bottom-end of their forward group (swapping Maxim Lapierre to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Peter Horachek favorite Marcel Goc), but that fourth-line is still pretty atrocious and could use some more work. Certainly Winnik and Santorelli would fit the bill, and be in St. Louis’ price range from a salary cap perspective. 

As for what you should covet from the Blues, there’s a lot to like. Robby Fabbri, Ivan Barbashev, Jordan Schmaltz, Ty Rattie, and Dmitrij Jaskins are the big fish, but there are a few intriguing names a bit deeper in their prospect pool too. The Blues unfortunately don’t own their first-round pick, but you’re not getting one anyway for a depth piece like what the Maple Leafs are most likely to be selling this deadline anyway. 

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