Hockey Guy: Blues add defensive insurance Live

The Blues didn't have a 2015 first-round pick to spend in this trade market. Nor did the franchise have tons of long-term salary cap space to work with.

So general manager Doug Armstrong didn't have a great hand to play while rivals like the Chicago Blackhawks (Antoine Vermette, Kimmo Timonen), Los Angeles Kings (Andrej Sekera), Anaheim Ducks (Tomas Fleischmann) and Winnipeg Jets (Lee Stempniak) were making key additions as the deadline neared.

Armstrong managed to land defensive-minded D-man Zybnek Michalek, a sturdy shot-blocker who has been sidelined by a concussion. This deal, which sent long-range forward prospect Maxim Letunov to Arizona, was clearly done with the playoffs in mind.

Also with the playoffs in mind, Armstrong sent defenseman Ian Cole to the Penguins Pittsburgh Pengiuns for physical defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, a right-handed shooter, and a seventh-round pick in 2016.

Then Armstrong added well-traveled forward Olli Jokinen, a big guy who used to an impact player in the league, from Toronto for a conditional draft sixth-round pick and spare forward Joakim Lindstrrom.

At least the price was right! Jokinen started the season with the Predators but fell out of the rotation there before landing with the Maple Leafs.

Michalek could become a key piece of the Blues' penalty-killing unit during postseason play -- if he gets healthy. Michalek met Armstrong's rental criteria; he is in the last year of a five-year, $20 million contract. Plus the Coyotes are eating half of his remaining money.

The Blues did not want to take on contract term with the Vladimir Tarasenko negotiations yet to come. That new deal will eat up a large chunk of the team's payroll next season and beyond

As for Letunov, he is rangy (6-foot-3) and skilled, as his performance  in the USHL indicates. But he is a long way from having a NHL body.

"Maxim's a big, skilled center w/ excellent upside," Coyotes GM Don Maloney told reporters. "He'll play at Boston U next season - who do a great job developing players."

To offset the loss of Letunov, the Blues got a conditional third-round pick in addition to Michalek.

Michalek dives to clear a puck off the line
by NHLVideo via YouTube

Zbynek Michalek plasters Tommy Wingels
by NHLArchive via YouTube

As for Bortuzzo, the young man can dance. He goes 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, so he will make the Blues look more imposing walking into the rink.



Michael Latta vs Robert Bortuzzo Feb 17, 2015
by hockeyfightsdotcom via YouTube

Armstrong took a long look at puck-moving defenseman Jeff Petry, a potential rental from the Edmonton Oilers. But Petry landed in Montreal instead for a second-round and a conditional pick which could upgrade from a No. 5 to a No. 4 or No. 3 depending on how far the Habs go in the playoffs.

Elsewhere in the NHL, the Blackhawks proved they are serious about making another Cup run. With top scorer Patrick Kane sidelined deep into the playoffs, general manager Stan Bowman didn't hoard his draft picks.

He spent his No. 1 pick in 2015 plus defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck to get Vermette from Arizona. He gained a heady offensive forward who can fit somewhere on the top three lines.

Vermette should add scoring punch while also fitting into Chicago's defensive structure. He was the best all-around rental forward on the market.

Bowman also spent a second-round pick in 2015 to get Timonen, a slick puck-moving defenseman coming back from a blood clotting condition, from the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks also moved a fourth-round pick in 2016 -- which could become either a third- or a second-round pick, depending on how far Chicago advances in the playoffs and how much Timonen plays.

The Kings spent a No. 1 pick and prospect Roland McKeown to get Sekera, a puck-moving defenseman, out of Carolina to fill the void left by Slava Voynov's legal troubles and Alec Martinez's injury. This pick will be in the 2015 draft unless LA misses the playoffs. Then it converts to a 2016 pick.

Sekera, who scored 44 points for the Hurricanes last season, could sign a new deal in LA with Voynov and Mike Richards off the roster.

The Ducks landed the useful Fleischmann, a former 23-goal scorer, for the Ghost of Dany Heatley and a third-round pick. Anaheim was still on the prowl for a defenseman as the deadline neared. Later the Ducks gained defenseman
James Wisniewski from Columbus and sent Eric Brewer packing to Toronto right before the trade deadline passed.

Armstrong would have loved to make a play for Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle, arguably the best offensive defenseman available. But he opted not to pay the extreme price the New York Rangers paid.

Yandle went to the Blue Shirts for a No. 1 pick in 2016, a No. 2 pick, John Moore and elite prospect Anthony Duclair -- with Arizona eating half of Yandle's money for salary cap purposes. New York also got a fourth-round pick and AHL defenseman Chris Summers.

"We're resetting this team," Don Maloney said. "We're gaining assets that in 3, 4, 5 years will put us in position to win the Stanley Cup."

As for the Rangers, Maloney said, "I think Keith could be the final piece of a Stanley Cup-winning team."

The Dallas Stars moved big winger Erik Cole, as expected. He and a conditional third-round pick when to Detroit for two Red Wings prospects and a No. 2 pick. This gives the Winged Wheel some heft in case Johan Franzen can't make it back for the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning firmed up their defense for their potential deep playoff run, adding Braydon Coburn from the Flyers. Philadelphia added to its previous haul for Timonen by getting a first-round pick in 2015, a third-round pick in '15 and Radko Gudas.

The Lightning freed up salary space by sending Brett Connolly to the Boston Bruins for second-round pick in 2015 and 2016.

The Red Wings added some defensive depth by spending a No. 3 pick on New Jersey Devils puck-mover Marek Zidlicky. That pick upgrades to a No. 2 if Detroit reaches the Stanley Cup Final.

The San Jose Sharks continued their mini-overhaul by moving forward Tyler Kennedy to the New York Islanders for a third-round pick and agitator Andrew Desjardins to the Blackhawks for Ben Smith.

The New York Islanders got additional protection in goal by sending Chad Johnson to the Buffalo Sabres for veteran
Michal Neuvirth.

The Vancouver Canucks added some depth with Cory Conacher, sending minor leaguer Dustin Jeffrey to the Islanders to get him. But did they get Conacher to help at the AHL level or in the NHL?

Former Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold moved up to Minnesota after washing out in Columbus. The Blue Jackets got back Justin Falk and a No. 5.

Former Blues winger Chris Stewart also landed with the Wild, for a second-round pick in 2017. Might the Blues run into these old friends?

"I'm excited I'll get a chance to play in the playoffs," Stewart told TSN.

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