Saturday, February 19, 2011

Will Colorado End Up Singing the Blues After Erik Johnson, Chris Stewart Blockbuster?

The St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche combined on a middle of the night blockbuster that would see Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk change locations along with a couple of conditional picks.  This is one of those rare deals come deadline season that was not about one team being a seller to a team making a playoff run, but just about both teams trying to reshape their teams for the future.  Both of these teams had high hopes coming into the season, but for various reasons on each side have failed to meet those expectations and find themselves well out of the current logjam that is the Western Conference playoff race.  Frustrations with their standing might have caused both teams to be more willing to give up on pieces that were considered as potential cornerstones of their franchises just a few months back.  Let’s take a look at why each team wanted to do the deal and who wins.
Colorado:  The Avalanche get Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a conditional second round pick.  Johnson, 23, was the 2006 first overall pick, who just last season seemed poised to take the next step to the elite level of NHL defenders.  That rise he appeared to be on at the close of last season has not translated over to this year with Johnson only having scored five goals and added 14 assists while playing at a minus eight.  Johnson is still only 23 years old so what the Avalanche are banking on here is that he can take that next step to the elite level, which paired with Matt Duchene would give the Avalanche a couple of prime talents to build around. 
"We are excited to be adding a top young defenceman in this league, a player who will have an impact on our blue-line for several years to come," Avalanche general manager and executive vice president Greg Sherman said in a release.
The other player part of the trade for Colorado is Jay McClement who is a solid checking center, which should help the Avalanche on their struggling penalty kill.
St. Louis: The Blues receive Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional first round pick.  The key for the Blues has to be getting a developing power forward like Chris Stewart.  The Blues have had significant trouble scoring with the concussion issues to David Perron and the injury to T.J. Oshie.  Oshie is back, but Perron is not and now with Stewart they add a player who tallied 28 goals last season and started this year in All-Star form before breaking his hand in a fight. 
His production has not been the same since returning from the injury, but the 23-year-old Stewart still has 13 goals and 17 assists in 36 games so far this season.  The idea of combining All-Star David Backes and his power mentality with Stewart has to be one that makes the Blues front office drool involuntarily.
If Stewart was not enough for the Blues fans to get excited about they also get promising rookie offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.  Shattenkirk burst onto the scene this season and while the 21-year-old has certainly slowed down 26 points in 46 games for a defender is still an impressive total.
"We're very excited to acquire a young emerging power forward in Chris Stewart and a top young NHL defenceman in Kevin Shattenkirk," said Blues GM and executive VP Doug Armstrong. "These are two solid young players who will help us now as we continue to grow and improve our team."
Verdict:  Unless Erik Johnson reaches his potential becomes the Norris trophy caliber defender that people have pegged him as being down the road this one appears to a nice win for the Blues as they get a guy who is a premiere power forward and a developing offensive defender to add to their young core.  Johnson might be the biggest name in the deal, but I believe Chris Stewart will end up the best player in it.  Either way you have to love that two teams that are underachieving would take the risk involved in a move like this rather than just sit still and do nothing.  It will be a move that defines the fate of two franchises for years to come and the team that wins it, their GM will be a hero and the losing GM is likely fired.