Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun break down Saturday's blockbuster Blues-Avalanche trade:
Burnside: Well, my friend, while the rest of us were sleeping, GMs Greg Sherman (Avs) and Doug Armstrong (Blues) were cooking up what has been the blockbuster of the trade-deadline period so far. Wow.
Former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, defensive specialist Jay McClement and a first-round pick (either 2011 or 2012) to the Avs for Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a second-round pick (either 2011 or 2012). Did I say, wow? I saw the Blues and Avs last month in Denver and both teams were struggling. I think it's fair to say they are beyond long shots to make the playoffs this season. But for two young teams that had disappointing seasons, this is about shaking up the foundation.
Johnson is the key for me. I thought he was emerging last season after a strong Olympic tournament, but he has never become that Chris Pronger-, anchor-type defenseman the Blues anticipated when they picked him first overall in 2006. With the development of Alex Pietrangelo, another top defensive pick, I guess Armstrong thought it was worth the risk to move Johnson. If he does take a step forward in Denver, Johnson could be the defenseman to replace Rob Blake from the Avs' glory days.
LeBrun: A stunner. Spoke with several GMs this morning and they were buzzing about it. But if you take a step back, you understand the trade: The Blues can't score goals and the Avs can't stop goals from going in. Both teams wanted to address their glaring needs with one swoop.
"I just felt that after watching our team play, the ability to add a power forward and to open up some our offense was going to be important for us," Armstrong told me today. "To get something of quality, you have to give up something of quality, and I think Erik Johnson is going to go on to Colorado and become a very good NHL player. We think Stewart is going to be that for us, and a key component for us was to get Shattenkirk included. He can help our transition game with Erik's departure.
"But I like our forward group now with [T.J.] Oshie, [David] Backes, Stewart, with [David] Perron coming back some point, and [Patrik] Berglund, and [Alexander] Steen."
Having Backes and Stewart, two of the NHL's top power forwards, up front is a tantalizing duo. But it's interesting that the reaction was mixed among the team executives I spoke with around the league. Some thought St. Louis got the better of the deal; others believed Colorado will win out because they think Johnson is the best player in the trade. I think it's too early to tell either way. Let's talk in five years.
Burnside: You're right; it's impossible to tell how this will work out because there is so much raw and untapped talent involved in this deal. Shattenkirk was on fire after being called up from the Avs' AHL team earlier this season, but like the rest of the Avs his production has dropped off. But if he develops into a top-four defenseman, maybe they won't miss Johnson that much.
It was an interesting day for the Blues, who earlier shipped veteran defenseman and captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay for prospect Brock Beukeboom and a third-round pick. Brewer played with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman during the 2002 Olympics (Canada won the gold medal), and I'm sure Brewer's stability on the ice and leadership in the dressing room will dovetail nicely with what is already in place.
LeBrun: Apart from maybe a minor move, I think the Blues are done trading. They don't have any other unrestricted free agents of note. Brewer was really the big rental piece they could move. Going back to the blockbuster with Colorado, however, I'm reminded of comments Armstrong made when training camps opened. He talked about this being a make-or-break season for his young squad and a chance for them to prove they could bring this team to another level. I think this trade shows Armstrong was somewhat disappointed with what he saw from that young core, and he responded big time.
"I want to make sure that it's not an indictment on any one player, but the season hasn't gone the way we had hoped," Armstrong told me today when I asked him about that. "Now I understand we've had injuries, debilitating injuries, for a long period of time, but you have to overcome injuries.
"Our group showed good flashes at times, but we're on the outside looking in for the playoffs and that's not a position we want to be in. Some of the players we were hoping to see more from this year, I would say the grade is incomplete. I'm talking about Oshie and Perron because of their injuries. So it's difficult to pin everything on those statements [from September], but we aren't where we want to be. We had to make changes to try and get it there. Our fan base has been patient and I'm hoping to reward that patience with getting us closer to the playoffs and having success in the playoffs. This trade I hope expedites that."
Burnside: Well, you have to hand it to Armstrong for making the call on shipping out Johnson. The optics will be bad if the former No. 1 pick flourishes in Denver. Still, even if people say the best player in the deal is Johnson, the feeling in St. Louis was that he wasn't good enough given his potential.
And once again, Sherman has shown he isn't afraid to mix it up. For a relative newcomer to the position, he has been very active and daring. He still needs a No. 1 goaltender (his acquisition of Brian Elliott for Craig Anderson doesn't accomplish that), but I will make a (daring?) prediction here and say the Blues and Avs will be in the playoffs next year. Of course, I had them both in my playoff bracket this season, for what it's worth.
Interesting week all around. There was an obvious sale on defensemen in Aisle 4! Along with the Avs/Blues dealings, Ian White landed in San Jose and Tomas Kaberle was finally shipped to Boston. Thankfully, we'll never have to ask Toronto GM Brian Burke about Mr. Kaberle again.
LeBrun: Well, Armstrong and Sherman didn't cook this up overnight.
"Greg Sherman and I have talked off and on over the season. He's one of the managers I enjoy talking to, so we've talked about different things as the season progressed," Armstrong said. "As his team started to go one in direction, he said he might want to do something major, and I said, 'Well, what are you thinking?' It just sort of evolved from that.
"It's certainly not something that either one of us woke up two days ago and said, 'Let's try this.' I hope it's an excellent trade for Colorado also. It's a trade I really believe can be a win for everybody involved because both teams are getting excellent players."
The deal capped off a mad Friday on the NHL trade front. I think the Bruins paid a high price for Kaberle, but they're a much better team for it. He's going to be such a beast on that power play. Now that all those defensemen moved yesterday, Bryan McCabe in Florida becomes the target for teams that still need defensive help. Panthers GM Dale Tallon can't be unhappy with the price Boston paid for Kaberle.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, my friend.