In the latest edition of 30 Thoughts, NHL insider Elliotte Friedman floated a handful of interesting ideas. Perhaps the most intriguing among them — at least for fans of the St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers — was the notion that the Blues should pursue on one of the Oilers’ top forwards.
The rumor mill is not a new place for Jordan Eberle. He’s remained a staple of the funny papers this season, even though Taylor Hall was flipped to the New Jersey Devils last June. After the Oilers bowed out in a tough seven-game series with the Anaheim Ducks in Round 2 of the playoffs, the 27-year-old quickly found his name buoyed about as trade fodder once again.
Which brings us back to Friedman and his idea of Eberle suiting up for the Blues next October.
The rationale behind the speculation isn’t difficult to figure out. St. Louis ended up relying on Vladimir Tarasenko too heavily down the stretch, and the lack of overall offensive depth hurt the Blues against the Nashville Predators in the postseason. In his column, Friedman also pointed out that the gap between Tarasenko and second-leading scorer Jaden Schwartz was substantial during the regular season, writing:
If you look at the top 10 scorers this season, no player had a bigger gap between himself and a teammate than Tarasenko. The next highest Blue was Jaden Schwartz, in 61st.
It’s clear why St. Louis would possibly be interested in pursuing Eberle. Moreover, it wouldn’t be the first time the Blues considered acquiring the former first-round pick. When they were shopping defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk last June, NHL.com’s Lou Korac reported that the asking price included either Hall or Eberle.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) June 24, 2016
That deal obviously never came to fruition, but there’s been some noteworthy dialog between the two clubs on the Eberle front. A fact that should have Blues supporters salivating.
Tarasenko will have the right side of the top line locked down for the next five-plus years, but Eberle would give them an incredibly dangerous weapon on the second line. David Perron had a fine season and scored 18 goals — a pleasant surprise in St. Louis — but he’s not nearly as dynamic as Eberle.
The Blues won’t be able to upgrade at center overnight, but they could piece together one of the stronger wing corps by adding Eberle. Patrik Berglund and Jori Lehtera could find themselves flanked by Eberle and Alex Steen, while Paul Stastny would likely continue to skate with Schwartz and Tarasenko.
That’s a lot of finish, and coach Mike Yeo could shuffle his lines pretty easily. Especially with Ivan Barbashev coming into his own as a 21-year-old forward. He spent time at center during the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild, and he didn’t look out of place. Barbaschev wasn’t taking over games, but one year of full-time service at the NHL level will do him a world of good.
The hangup, as usual, would be Eberle and his substantial cap hit of $6 million. The Blues would have to send salary back to Edmonton to make things work, and it’s not like the Oilers are swimming in cap space either. Not with new deals coming for Leon Draisaitl this summer and Connor McDavid in 2018.
Perhaps the ultimate wild card — and what could make a deal between Edmonton and St. Louis possible — is the expansion draft. Odds are against the Blues leaving someone such as Jay Bouwmeester (and his $5.4 million cap hit) unprotected, but what if the Vegas Golden Knights spring for Carl Gunnarsson and his $2.9 million cap hit? Roll that in with the savings of letting Nail Yakupov go ($2.5 million) and St. Louis could get creative and find a way to make things work.
Colton Parayko is the only high priority free agent St. Louis has to deal with this summer, and they could take the bridge route with him in order to save some money over the next few campaigns. If they delay Parayko’s long-term deal, then Paul Stastny and his $7 million cap hit would come off the books in the summer of 2018.
The Blues are in a great spot with their core players. The important parts of any potential Stanley Cup run are locked up for the foreseeable future. If they think they’re an Eberle away from making a strong run, then perhaps there’s a deal there to be had with the Oilers.
Don’t expect this kind of trade to come together quickly, however, and it’s difficult to even guess about what this kind of swap could entail. But it makes sense from the Blues’ end, and it’s something general manager Doug Armstrong should at least get a pulse on.
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