Blues GM Doug Armstrong leaning toward ‘hockey trade’

St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) comes down on Minnesota Wild defenseman Jordan Leopold (33) as they and Wild right wing Justin Fontaine, left, chase the puck during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series game in St. Paul, Minn. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

Doug Armstrong views the Seth Jones—for—Ryan Johansen deal as a great trade, the type of deal he would prefer to strike — if he makes one at all — after the NHL’s all-star break but before the Feb. 29 trade deadline passes.

The St. Louis Blues play in the league’s fiercest division and have been racked with injuries this season, but considering head coach Ken Hitchcock and captain David Backes are both on the home stretch of expiring contracts, this core has a win-now mentality.

So what will Armstrong do in the next 42 days to achieve a championship-calibre roster?

“If we’re going to make changes, it’ll probably be a hockey trade. I don’t see it being a veteran player coming in and a young player going out or a young player coming and a veteran going out. We’re not in the ‘sell’ or ‘buy’ mode; we’re in the ‘play for now’ mode. I like our depth, I like our group, we’ll see how it plays out,” Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There are hockey trades going on, but some of these things take weeks or months to put together.”

According to Rutherford's sources, top-four defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk is available for a high price. The emergence of rookie D-man Colton Parayko and the fact that Shattenkirk will be difficult to re-sign have turned him into trade bait. Shattenkirk becomes a free agent in the summer of 2017, the same summer Parayko seeks a raise. Crucial to the Blues' power-play, Shattenkirk has 26 points, 15 with the extra man, but his minus-10 rating is the worst of all St. Louis players.

Several reporters have named St. Louis as a front-runner to acquire the disgruntled Jonathan Drouin from Tampa Bay, and rookie Robby Fabbri's name has popped up as a good match — a hockey trade in the mold of Jones-Johansen.

“Robby Fabbri, that’s really a positive for us,” Armstrong said. “He is playing well beyond what we thought we would need from him. I didn’t think we were going to need him to this level, but injuries came on, we’ve needed him, and he’s responded.”

Fabbri has potted 11 goals for a Blues squad that has had to deal with the losses of forwards Paul Stastny, Steve Ott and, most significantly, Jaden Schwartz for significant stretches.

“It’s difficult to trade because there’s not many teams that believe they can’t take a big push and get into the playoffs,” Armstrong said.

“You look at [any trade] short-, medium- and long-term. You go back all the way to their American Hockey League days or their junior days and you gain as much information as possible and you try to make an educated guess based on history. That’s why the Columbus-Nashville trade is a great trade. They’re two legitimate players that teams made decisions on. It’ll be fun to watch and see how it unfolds."

So will the Blues' situation.