Don't expect the St. Louis Blues to go into sell mode ahead of the NHL trade deadline, and Jakob Chychrun could get moved sooner rather than later.
That and some insight on the Los Angeles Kings in the latest Off The Record:
1. 'It Could Happen Soon'
Since he let it be known that defenseman Jakob Chychrun was available on the NHL trade market, Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong hasn't budged much on the asking price. According to OTR conversations with numerous NHL sources, Armstrong is still asking for what amounts to the equivalent of two first-round draft picks (combination of a 2023 first round pick, and either a future first round pick or an already drafted first rounder), prospects and players as well. However, according to one NHL Executive source, Armstrong is more more flexible on specific prospects with interested teams. The one thing he is insistent on, is acquiring another 2023 first round pick.
Armstrong's recent willingness to be flexible and more creative may be the reason that interested suitors such as the Los Angeles Kings, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, and Edmonton Oilers have had more than one scout, and at times, high-ranking hockey operations members at Coyotes games.
Off the record:
"I think Bill has a better grasp on the market, and has been much more open to different trade offers," the aforementioned NHL executive scout told OTR recently. "I know of at least two teams that are definitely beyond just exchanging trade ideas too. That's why you're seeing the serious teams send more scouts more often. I think it could happen soon but obviously the recent scale back in salary cap projections hasn't made things any easier."
2. Blues Won't Be Sellers
Following the Jan. 2 announcement that forwards Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko were placed on injured reserve, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made it clear to the media that he wasn't throwing the towel in just yet.
“I think when you work in pro sports, you don’t get down in situations like this,” the St. Louis Blues GM told the media via Zoom. “I’m really excited about the opportunity. … I remember my first year, I think it was 08-09, that team was ravaged with injuries and they went on a great heater and they made the playoffs and we lost to Vancouver, but it was the sign of a team that came together that did all the little things well, playing great in front of their goalie, their goalie played good.
They didn’t give up a lot of chances and you have a lot of fun when you’re playing like that. And that’s what we have to do. We have to get joy back into being a hard working team that defends first and foremost and plays for the other guys. And if we do that, I think we can surprise people. If we don’t do that. It’s going to be a long second half of the season.”
Since then , the Blues have gone 4-1 without O'Reilly, Tarasenko, and defensemen Torey Krug and Marco Scandella, who were already on injured reserve. According to a trusted source, the Blues success since losing Tarasenko and O'Reilly, has only reaffirmed Armstrong's faith in his team, and as of this past weekend, he did not plan on going into sell mode as the March 3 NHL Trade Deadline inches closer.
Off the record:
"Doug isn't going to blow it all up," the aforementioned NHL source told OTR recently. "Look, will he move an established player before the deadline? I could see that, but only in a hockey, player-for-player trade. He still believes in this team and from what I hear, he's shopping not selling."
Author's note: After what the Blues pulled off in 2019, did you really think Armstrong would just wave the white flag?
3. What Will Kings Do Before Trade Deadline?
As mentioned above, the Kings remain one of the teams interested in acquiring Jakob Chychrun. They surely have the arsenal of picks, prospects and young NHL roster players that Armstrong wants. After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, the feel around the NHL heading into this season was that they were ready use that arsenal to take it to the next level and become better in the present. Is that still the case though?
Off the record:
"I think the Kings are once again a very interesting team to watch as the trade deadline approaches," one NHL executive told OTR. "I know they're in on Chychrun but I wonder if given how the first half of the season went, are they less inclined to unload assets for playoff rentals? A player like Chychrun, as it does every team looking at him, entices the Kings because he's young and on a good contract. That makes more sense than giving away some of your future for a potential playoff run if you don't think you've taken that next step yet. I think its wait and see on rentals for them, but if they keep playing the way they have since New Year's then that can change for sure."