With the announcement becoming official today that Carlo Colaiacovo has signed two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, some Blues fans may be wondering what happened to their team's plans of bringing in a defenseman.
In June, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong expressed the need for a top-four defenseman, one who ideally could play on the left side. Colaiacovo, who was an unrestricted free agent, plays on the left side and had developed a chemistry with teammate Alex Pietrangelo, but the Blues were looking for an upgrade.
Well, with the NHL on the verge of a lockout Saturday, discussion of acquiring that defenseman is rendered moot. But when the Blues return to the ice following the work stoppage, Armstrong will still have a hole to fill.
The Blues have Barret Jackman, Kris Russell and Ian Cole on the left side, but would like to add another experienced player who can chew up some minutes. They added Tyler Chorney and Jeff Woywitka in the offseason, but those two signings were meant to give the club added arsenal in Peoria.
"I think we had talked about trying to improve the left side of our defense if possible," Armstrong said recently. "There hasn't been a lot of player movement, quite honestly, since I made the statement I wish I didn't make five months ago. I sort of put ourselves on the clock there. But we believe in the six guys that are here, Ian Cole being one of the six. Bringing in Chorney and Woywitka gives us some depth there."
The Blues engaged in the free-agent market, making a run at former Philadelphia defenseman Matt Carle. But the price tag was too huge, as Carle went to Tampa Bay on a 6-year, $33 million deal that included a $3 million signing bonus.
There have been trade talks thoughout the offseason, but nothing has materialized. Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester and Phoenix's Keith Yandle have been two targets on many team's radar; however, it appears that the Flames and Coyotes are asking for established NHL players in return. With regard to the Blues, that could mean one or more of the team's top nine forwards.
"I hope that teams around the league think the St. Louis Blues have a good team and they'd love to have some of our players," Armstrong said.
But that doesn't mean the Blues' GM would be willing to give them up. Armstrong has indicated this summer that he'd be more inclined to trade draft picks or prospects for a defenseman, and he reiterated that plan recently. But this time, Armstrong mentioned the possibility of teams' blueprints potentially being altered in the aftermath of a new collective-bargaining agreement and how that could change the landscape of the market.
"I think that the (new CBA) system will tell us what players will be available, and we're going to wait and react to the system and whatever it may be," Armstrong said. "If there's player movement because the system changes, then there will be player movement. If not, we have a stock pile of draft picks moving forward (and) we have a stockpile of what we think are good prospects, and we're entering that level now where we believe is our time to take it to the next level. And at some time you have to sacrifice a little bit of the future for today and I think as an organization, that's the area that we'll go to.
"Instead of moving an apple for an orange, taking an NHL player for an NHL player, we might look at getting into future draft picks to try and improve this year's team."
Meanwhile, Friday's announcement confirms that Colaiacovo won't be suiting up for the Blues any longer. The free agent inked a two-year, $5 million contract with the Red Wings.
Acquired in November 2008 in a trade with Toronto that also brought Alex Steen to St. Louis and sent Lee Stempniak to the Maple Leafs, Colaiacovo played parts of four seasons with the Blues. In 259 games with the Note, he had 18 goals and 88 assists.
"I believe (the Blues) have something great going and I would like to be part of that, but it's a business," Colaiacovo told the Post-Dispatch Friday. "There are changes every year, and unfortunately for myself, I had to be one of those changes. It's time to move on and I think Detroit is a great fit for me. It's a team that is a perennial Cup contender and it's a compliment to be part of that."
Colaiacovo, who developed a strong relationship with Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, said the two haven't talked about meeting along the boards when they meet on the ice again.
"We haven't gotten to that extent yet," Colaiacovo said. "Everybody knows we're great friends and really enjoyed being partners...helping him through a young career. I think he's going to be something special. I would love to be alongside him to help him achieve those goals. But he's in good hands, the team has a bright future, and we'll definitely stay in touch."