St Louis Blues v Phoenix Coyotes

Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk are becoming stars for Blues

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Last season, the St. Louis Blues decided to trade Erik Johnson, a defenseman they drafted No. 1 overall in 2006 ahead of stars such as:

  • Jonathan Toews
  • Nicklas Backstrom
  • Phil Kessel
  • Jordan Staal
  • Claude Giroux (a fantastic steal at No. 22*)

The Blues received the 18th pick of that draft (Chris Stewart) as part of that trade, but they were able to justify sending away the should-be cornerstone of their defense because they received a 2007 first-rounder in Kevin Shattenkirk as part of the deal and because of the confidence they had in the fourth overall pick of the ’08 draft, Alex Pietrangelo.

Call it the Ken Hitchcock Effect or point to the natural progression of two talented athletes – or consider it some combination of those factors – but handing the torch to that dynamic young duo is looking awfully smart right now.

Pietrangelo within range of elite status

Pietrangelo has been particularly dazzling. As Lou Korac pointed out last night, the 22-year-old blueliner has generated 30 points in his last 30 contests. He’s been especially hot lately, with five assists in his last three games and seven in his last six, failing to produce a point in just a single outing.

Only David Backes and T.J. Oshie (47 points apiece) have generated more offense for the Blues than Pietrangelo in 2011-12.

source: APShattenkirk close to shattering personal best

Right underneath him is Shattenkirk, who has one less goal (10-9) and four fewer assists (31-27) for a still-impressive 36 points in 67 games. I’m a card-carrying member of the “rolls eyes at plus/minus” club, but for those who love the stat, Shattenkirk leads the plus-heavy team with a standout +26 mark.

Much like Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk is especially hot lately with a goal and four assists in three contests and nine points in his last six. Pietrangelo’s 41 points has him tied with Shea Weber, Dennis Wideman and Ryan Suter for fifth in scoring among defensemen while Shattenkirk’s 36 has him tied for 14th.

***

Interestingly enough, both Pietrangelo (two points) and Shattenkirk (four) are already on the verge of setting new career-high totals. Such success demands an enticing set of questions, then: what’s the ceiling for each blueliner? How far are they from becoming elite – or are they already there?

Either way, both guys certainly made it easier to say goodbye to Erik Johnson.

* – For all the bluster over what the Pittsburgh Penguins have done with their draft picks – and with all due respect to what Staal has achieved – it’s mind-blowing to think that Ray Shero could have added one of those four All-Star forwards instead.

Nugent-Hopkins trying to ignore trade rumors — ‘If it happens, it happens’

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 14:  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on December 14, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Ryan Nugent-Hopkins trade speculation may have died down since it peaked at the draft in late June, but it’s not entirely dead.

The 23-year-old former first overall draft pick was asked to address the ongoing rumors Monday at an Oilers charity golf tournament.

“I try not to pay attention too much,” Nugent-Hopkins said, per the Edmonton Journal. “If it happens, it happens. I know it’s definitely a different group than the one we finished with last season.”

Indeed it is. Most notably, Taylor Hall is in New Jersey now, traded for defenseman Adam Larsson. The Oilers also signed Milan Lucic and drafted Jesse Puljujarvi.

What’s still lacking is an offensive defenseman who can run the power play, which is why the names Tyson Barrie (Avalanche) and Matt Dumba (Wild) have been floated as potential targets.

The Wild in particular could use a good, young center like Nugent-Hopkins, and the expansion draft is looming for a Minnesota club that already has defensemen Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Marco Scandella locked up in long-term contracts.

Barrie, meanwhile, has an arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.

Blues d-man Kevin Shattenkirk is another name that’s come up; however, he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, and whether he’d re-sign in Edmonton is in doubt.

Flyers reportedly avoid arbitration with Manning, sign him for two more years

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Chalk up another arbitration hearing that won’t be required. This time it’s Brandon Manning‘s. The 26-year-old defenseman has agreed on a two-year, $1.95 million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to CSN Philly.

Manning’s hearing was scheduled for next Tuesday. He was the last restricted free agent on the Flyers, after Brayden Schenn re-signed Monday.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the Manning signing.

Manning played 56 games for the Flyers in 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL. He had one goal and six assists while logging an average ice time of 16:32.

Report: Blackhawks, Rundblad agree to terminate contract

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 09:  David Rundblad #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 9, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks are reportedly parting ways with defenseman David Rundblad. The two sides have agreed to a contract termination, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Rundblad, 25, was set to earn $1.1 million this season, per General Fanager. His cap hit was $1.05 million, meaning the ‘Hawks will gain $100,000 in cap space by not having to bury his contract in the AHL next season.

Rundblad was unlikely to make the Blackhawks in 2016-17 — not after the additions of Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny, and also the re-signing of Michal Rozsival.

It remains to be seen where Rundblad will end up. One possibility is back in Switzerland, where he spent part of last season before dressing three times for the ‘Hawks in the playoffs.

Sydor named assistant coach of Blues’ AHL affiliate

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 11: Assistant coach Darryl Sydor of the Minnesota Wild looks up at the jumbotron during a video review in a game against the Ottawa Senators, during the NHL home opener to kick off the Senators' 20th anniversary at Scotiabank Place on October 11, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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Darryl Sydor, after being let go by the Minnesota Wild, has joined the Chicago Wolves as an assistant coach.

The St. Louis Blues, the parent club of the AHL Wolves, made the announcement Monday. It was also announced that former NHLer Daniel Tkaczuk would join Sydor as an assistant on new head coach Craig Berube’s staff.

Sydor, who won two Stanley Cups as a defenseman, spent five years as an assistant on Mike Yeo’s staff in Minnesota. His time with the Wild was marred by an arrest in 2015 for drunk driving. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and sought treatment.

“I know now that alcoholism is a disease and I’m powerless over alcohol,” he told Kamloops This Week in January. “I can never have a drink again and I’m fine with that.”