When you think about the teams at the top of the league right now, a few obvious ones come to mind: Chicago, the Capitals, the Stars. Since we're in the East, the Panthers are right atop that list as well, all these teams sitting atop or close to the top of their respective divisions.
How frequently do you think about the St. Louis Blues as a top team? Not very often, I'll bet - the Stars and Chicago tend to overshadow the guys from the 'Lou. And yet they're sitting just two points back of Chicago in the toughest division in the NHL right now. Their best defenseman is about to come off injured reserve, and they have a bit of a glut of young talent on the back end between rookie Colton Parayko, sophomore Petteri Lindbohm, and Jordan Schmaltz - all three are 22, products of the Blues' 2012 draft.
So let's talk Kevin Shattenkirk, first of all.
Shattenkirk is 26, a Boston University product, currently fourth on the Blues in total points with ten goals and 21 assists. He also currently makes the same exact salary as the Bruins' Loui Eriksson. ONE FOR ONE SWAP LET'S DO THE THING.
(okay, maybe not.)
Truth is, the Blues lucked into Shattenkirk HARD. When they traded Erik Johnson and a pick to the Avalanche for Chris Stewart and Shattenkirk back at the trade deadline in 2011 (a trade that happened the same day as the Kaberle to Boston trade!), he was still bouncing between the AHL and the NHL, and had been struggling defensively at the NHL level. Given the chance to thrive in St. Louis, he's done just that - in his sixth season with the team, he's amassed 59 goals and 166 assists, and has already matched his career high in goals this season.
Would the Blues consider trading him? Maybe. The Bruins would have to sweeten an Eriksson deal pretty hard. The Blues are hard up against the salary cap right now and would likely be looking to shed some of that in whatever deals they make. They're also a little hard pressed for scoring; while being one of the stingier teams in terms of goals allowed, they're sitting in the midst of a lot of non-playoff teams with only 156 goals scored on the season. (The Bruins, by comparison, have scored 190.)
If this trade were to happen, the Bruins would very much have to sweeten the pot, and that might make this a hard one. The Blues can't take back much additional salary at this point due to how cap-strapped they are. First round picks would have to be in play, I'd think - since the Bruins are sitting on the Sharks' first rounder in 2016, maybe they send over Eriksson and their own first for Shattenkirk and a prospect. The problem for the Bruins in this scenario, any scenario in which Shattenkirk is involved, is that their Eriksson salary cap woes essentially just get delayed a year, and they risk losing Shattenkirk for nothing. Shattenkirk becomes a UFA at the same time as Brad Marchand - and with the season Marchand has had, we all know he's going to be making bank when 2017-2018 starts.
So Shattenkirk is a pipe dream. Luckily, there are other options in play.
The Blues, thanks to LTIR, are currently sitting on about 3.125M of cap space. To acquire Loui for a run this year, they'd need an additional 1.175-ish in space. They really could probably re-sign Loui comfortably next season - they're unlikely to re-sign Troy Brouwer, and Carl Gunnarsson could likely walk as well. But RIGHT NOW, they need space for Loui.
We know that the Bruins need defensemen for the future, not just this year. The Blues' Edmundson or Schmaltz could definitely be options.
From Hockey's Future, on Edmundson:
Speaking of surprises, Edmundson has been another pleasant one for the Blues after locking down a third pairing role. Similar to Parayko, Edmundson has good size for the NHL level but still maintains above average skating. He has an impressive shot that has gone underutilized thus far in his NHL career but has earned six assists. Although he plays a supporting role, he has skated over 20 minutes four times this season. Although he is certainly overshadowed by Parayko and the veterans, Edmundson’s strong defensive performance has helped the Blues earn points when their offense has struggled.
We've seen it before with players like Johnny Boychuk: sometimes defensemen take a little longer to develop at the NHL level. Edmundson is playing mostly sheltered minutes for the Blues at the moment, but he's a cheap option, still on his ELC, and an RFA at the end of the year. He's a player the Bruins could acquire and re-sign for not much money and probably not a huge term - more of a bridge deal to see if he can prove himself next season, like they've done in the past - and see how he develops over the course.
If we look at Edmundson's numbers for the Blues on Corsica, we see that he's already being deployed for a higher percentage of defensive zone starts than Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug - with a higher resulting corsi for%. Obviously other players of high quality on the ice help - his QoT is pretty low - but we can tentatively say that his numbers look stronger than Seidenberg's already, and he has loads of potential to develop.
Regarding Schmaltz, the product of a North Dakota system is currently the Blues' top D prospect, and plays for Chicago in the AHL. After a stellar college career, he's now one point behind Andre Benoit for the team lead in points. Taking a gamble on Schmaltz might be worth it - although with him being such a strong prospect, the Bruins would likely have to toss in a pick, and might have to take some salary back to help the Blues out.
Either way, acquiring young defensive talent while selling Eriksson to a team that could use some scoring help is a promising idea. Losing Loui at the trade deadline also means more of Max Talbot or Tyler Randell in the lineup - unless the organization can be convinced to give Frank Vatrano or Seth Griffith another look. The idea of losing a guy on pace to score 30 goals in favor of Talbot or Randell for the rest of the season is....well, it's not great, but things could look good for 2016-2017, at least.
(And while neither of the young defensemen are Kevin Shattenkirk, I -GUESS- planning for the future is more important than correcting the BC vs BU players on the Bruins discrepancy. BC 1, BU 0....I guess you win this round, Chestnut Hill University. FOR NOW.)