In the final part of the Ilya Kovalchuk series, the St. Louis Blues are the last team seriously tied to a trade with the New Jersey Devils. Former goalie Martin Brodeur’s place in the front office may have helped peaked the team’s interest.
The St. Louis Blues continue to find themselves on the brink of contention every season. Since the surprise first place finish in the Central back in 2012, the team made the playoffs every year, but out of the second round just once. Despite having one of the best young cores in the NHL, the team still doesn’t feel like its any closer to winning the Stanley Cup.
That’s why the team showing interest in Ilya Kovalchuk is no surprise. The team ranked 12th in the league in scoring despite Vladimir Tarasenko lighting the lamp 39 times.
Kovalchuk could still be a 30 goal scorer, but even the worst case scenario he will hit 20. The Blues only had one of those outside of Tarasenko last season.
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The Devils likely want the Blues to be part of the Kovalchuk sweepstakes. They have depth at every position besides goalie, where the Devils are set. The Blues are one of the only teams the Devils could even ask about a defenseman without the other team’s GM laughing at them.
Obviously, Alex Pietrangelo isn’t moving. He’s the team’s captain and the clear number one now that Kevin Shattenkirk is gone. Outside of him, the Devils can at least talk about every other player. Colton Parayko is currently an unsigned restricted free agent. The team may not be able to afford him without someone taking money off the table. Jay Bouwmeester has been a force for St. Louis for five years.
Even some forwards could help the Devils, but there are some caveats. Alexander Steen is a very interesting name, but he’s coming off two straight disappointing seasons. Plus, he has three more seasons at $5.75 million. Jori Lehtera is making close to $5 million for two more seasons, but he is nothing what the Devils need right now. Jaden Schwartz would be a good return for Kovalchuk, but after his playoff performance the Blues won’t let him go.
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The Blues have two very good prospects in center Ivan Barbashev and Jordan Schmaltz. If the Blues offer Schmaltz in some sort of trade for Kovalchuk, the Devils should strongly consider that. The former University of North Dakota defenseman got his first taste of NHL action after being drafted in 2012. He’s ready to help an NHL team now, but the Blues have a logjam on defense. Obviously, the Devils would need to eat almost all of Kovalchuk’s salary or take back a bad contract in order to make it work. It may be worth it.
There is some chicanery to make a Kovalchuk to Blues trade work, but it could happen. General manager Ray Shero will be taking a lot of calls, and could look for a less complicated deal, but at the end of the day he wants the best value. That could come from St. Louis.