-Photo by Marc DesRosiers, USA TODAY Sports
Following the acquisition of Adam Cracknell from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Blues have remaining needs to be filled before the March 2 trade deadline.
Cracknell adds depth on the offensive side, specifically right wing. Depth on offense is never something a team can have too much of come playoff time.
But what about the blue line?
Currently the Blues starting lineup consists of Carl Gunnarsson, Alex Pietrangelo, Petteri Linbohm, Jay Bouwmeester, Barret Jackman and Chris Butler. Kevin Shattenkirk skated with the team this week, but Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said Shattenkirk is still weeks away from a return.
At the AHL level, the Blues lack significant depth defensively with the Chicago Wolves and the Blues’ prospect pool.
If the Blues do suffer another injury to a member of their blue line, it would be expected to see Ian Cole return to action.
Some other defensemen in the system to potentially see include Brent Regner or Brent Sopel. Regner leads the Wolves in plus minus with a +20 and carries 21 points in 53 games. But, Regner has yet to play a game at the NHL level, and the stretch run to the NHL playoffs is not an ideal time to start. Sopel, on the other hand, has played 659 games at the NHL level and 71 in the playoffs. He carries experience including a Stanley Cup Championship with Chicago in 2010. But, Sopel has decline greatly at the age of 38 and has not played in the NHL since that 2010 season.
Evidently, the Blues need defensive depth.
After the Andrej Sekera trade, the defensemen options got a bit thinner, but there are still some quality options for the Blues to improve for the playoffs.
5. Zbynek Michalek: Defenseman, Arizona Coyotes
Michalek is a quality defenseman even at the age of 32, and has greatly improved his defensive game. Early in his career, members around the NHL criticized Michalek for a lack of dedication in the defensive zone. Michalek has improved, and is only a -6 on a below-.500 team in Arizona.
Michalek is a smooth skater and good carrying the puck. The biggest issue is a lack of physicality for a defenseman, but if paired with the right player, he could fit well into the Blues system.
Another difficult obstacle on the trade market is that Arizona is trying to package him with Antoine Vermette. The cost for both of those players would be a tough one to swallow for St. Louis, but if the Blues can separate the two, it could be a perfect option.
4. Marek Zidlicky: Defenseman, New Jersey Devils
Zidlicky currently has four goals and 19 assists in 61 games played for the Devils and is a player who is known for his offensive spark. At just 5’11” 190 pounds, Zidlicky does not have the ideal size or strength to be a lock-down defenseman that the Blues could use on the second or third pairing.
However, with Shattenkirk out, the Alex Pietrangelo is the only defenseman in the starting lineup that is a right-handed shooter. Zidlicky is a right-handed player is a strong skater and puck handler. Zidlicky would be able to step in and not skip a beat with the power play for the Blues.
In terms of money, Zidlicky carries a $4 million cap hit and is on the final year of his contract. Therefore, the Blues can easily cut ties with Zidlicky after this season in order to have the cap space to pay Vladamir Tarasenko this offseason.
3. Keith Yandle: Defenseman, Arizona Coyotes
Yandle is the youngest on this list at the age of 28. Yandle is coming off his best offensive season with eight goals and 53 points with the Coyotes last season. This year, Yandle is on the final year of his contract that carries a $5.5 million cap hit, and Yandle is on pace to match those numbers with 40 points in 61 games.
The big knock on Yandle’s game is the struggles at time in his own zone. Yandle can often times get a bit too cute with the puck leading to turnovers. In fact, Yandle, along with many of his Coyotes teammates, is a minus on the season at a -31.
However, Yandle could thrive if paired with a player like Gunnarsson or Shattenkirk when he returns. Both Gunnarsson and Shattenkirk have looked strong in the defensive end, and Yandle is a left-handed shot, which would compliment Shattenkirk’s right-handed shot on the blue line.
2. James Wisniewski: Defenseman, Columbus Blue Jackets
Both teams already worked one deal, so why stop there.
Wisniewski has a no-trade clause, but released a list of teams he would lift his clause for. Wisniewski is a strong skater with quality experience at the age of 31. Even at an older age, Wisniewski still managed 28 points so far this season and is only a -7 on a below-.500 team.
Wisniewski is a right-handed shot that the Blues could use, especially pairing him with a player like Carl Gunnarsson to add a bit more puck-handling on the back-end. Wisniewski can play both power play and penalty kill minutes as he has with Columbus this season.
Wisniewski has played in 24 career playoff games in his career, and brings quality leadership on the back-end. However, the big problem with Wisniewski is not only the price to acquire him, but also his $5.5 million cap hit as Wisniewski is signed for the next two seasons.
1. Dennis Seidenberg: Defenseman, Boston Bruins
Seidenberg is a Stanley Cup Champion in 2011, a top-pairing defenseman for one of the top defensive teams in the past few seasons, and the ability to play on a power play unit.
What more could you want?
Seidenberg stands in at 6’1″ 210 pounds and is only 33-years-old. Although his offensive numbers dipped this season with just 11 points so far, Seidenberg is a proven winner and has logged top-line minutes in 69 career playoff games.
The only issue is the price. Seidenberg is arguably Boston’s best blue liner after the steep dip in Zdeno Chara’s play over the past year and a half. Boston is also in a playoff race unlike many other teams considering unloading talented defensemen. Therefore, the Blues likely would have to send back NHL-caliber players as opposed to prospects and draft picks to acquire Seidenberg.
The Bruins d-man also carries a cap hit of $4 million over the next three season, but with some financial maneuvering, the Blues could manage to keep Seidenberg going forward.
Despite all these options, there is no need for a massive overhaul for the Blues as they sit in second in the Central Division. However, some adjustments over the next few days before the March 2 deadline will greatly improve the Blues headed into the playoffs.