<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

David Backes
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Should the Blues trade David Backes?

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Both David Backes and the St. Louis Blues are saying all the right things about avoiding a trade and getting a deal done, although there’s some doubt undercutting certain comments.

Yes, GM Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that trading his captain would be the “least likely scenario,” noting that a “first-round pick does us no good when we’re going to this year’s playoffs.”

Still, he also ends that comment with an important disclaimer: “We’ve got now until March to find out where we’re at.”

March stands out since, you know, the trade deadline is on Feb. 29.

Is that Armstrong’s way of saying “We need to get him re-signed by the trade deadline” or is it more about mapping out a gameplan?

That’s a key consideration, as Backes’ rep Wade Arnott said that the two sides weren’t close to a deal last summer. Everyone’s talking about “business,” sanitizing the painful truth that something has to happen one way or another.

This brings up plenty of questions, including: what really is a reasonable price for Backes, who’s been a bargain at his $4.5 million cap hit, and may want max money and term after being a steal for all these years?

Backes is currently 31, and will turn 32 in May. One has to wonder about the wear and tear he’s accumulated as he enters his 700th game, considering his physical, agitating style.

The Blues’ overall salary structure doesn’t make the choice much easier.

On one hand, this team is clearly built to win now. Key players such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Alexander Steen (not to mention goalies Brian Elliott and Jake Allen) only have a year or two reamining on their contracts, and it’s conceivable that they all will demand signiicant raises.

Chances are, someone needs to go, and it would be easier to sell Backes as a “rental” now rather than trying to unload a tougher contract like Paul Stastny ($7 million per season through 2017-18) or Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4 million through 2018-19).

It’s not an easy choice by any means, and a lot of this revolves around how far the Blues truly expect to go.

So, how should the Blues handle this situation?

Goalie nods: Jones, Sharks try to take bite out of Kings’ lead

Martin Jones, Brent Burns
AP
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Martin Jones has accomplished quite a bit – albeit quietly – as the San Jose Sharks’ starting goalie. Beating the team he backed up for (and the guy he watched most nights) once more would add a nice bullet point to that list.

Jones is in for the Sharks, while aforementioned Los Angeles Kings starter Jonathan Quick is not necessarily the guy who will face him.

Either way, the Kings will face a red-hot Jones and a Sharks team that hopes to chip away at Los Angeles’ considerable lead in the Pacific.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer signaled as much earlier today.

Jones is on a personal six-game winning streak, grabbing a shutout and two additional wins in which he’s allowed a single goal. During off nights, the Sharks have had his back lately.

This stands as a useful barometer for Jones’ progress, as well as how hot the Sharks really are, so it should be an interesting game to follow.

Elsewhere …

Rangers at Senators: Henrik Lundqvist vs. Craig Anderson

Flames at Hurricanes: Karri Ramo vs. (maybe) Eddie Lack

Blues at Blackhawks: Brian Elliott vs. Corey Crawford

Kreider in, Nash out for Rangers on Sunday

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25:  Chris Kreider #20 of the New York Rangers talks with Rick Nash #61 during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 25, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It’s one power forward in, one out for the New York Rangers on Sunday, but the overall picture is positive.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Rick Nash cannot play against the Ottawa Senators today. He’s day-to-day with what sounds like a lower-body injury after blocking a shot.

Even the bad Nash news is mostly OK: he’s likely to play on Monday.

Chris Kreider went on a hot streak (five points in four games up from Jan. 14-19) before dealing with neck spasms, and now he’s back in the lineup for this match against the Sens.

Here’s how the Rangers line will likely look:

Christian Thomas could see Coyotes debut after recall

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 14: Christian Thomas #60 of the Montreal Canadiens before the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs  at the Bell Centre on February 14, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes reached their 23-man roster limit by recalling Christian Thomas on Sunday.

Thomas was traded to Arizona from Montreal for Lucas Lessio in mid-December.

The 40th pick of the 2010 NHL Draft generated two assists in five NHL games with the Habs. He’s been productive in the AHL, as well, playing nicely despite being on two AHL rosters and maybe soon-to-be two NHL teams.

Arizona plays two games before the All-Star break, including a Monday contest. We’ll see if Thomas debuts then, or if this was just a call up to get a look at the forward.

Here’s what the Lightning are reportedly offering Stamkos

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Look, we know Steven Stamkos is going to make buckets of money. The key questions are “Where will he sign?” and “For how much?”

The Tampa Bay Lightning still have time to re-sign him before the circus truly comes to town, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman provides some interesting details on what their offer might be.

Friedman reports that the Lightning are offering a deal worth $8.5 million per season, and the Tampa Bay Tribune fills in some details that make it seem like it would be an eight-year, $68M deal overall.

What’s your initial reaction to that?

It says a lot about the money thrown around in modern sports that, personally, the gut reflex was “That’s not enough.”

Perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective; take a glance at the cap hit leaders, via General Fanager:

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane: $10.5 million
Alex Ovechkin: $9.538M
Evgeni Malkin: $9.5M
P.K. Subban: $9M
Sidney Crosby: $8.7M
Corey Perry: $8.625M
Henrik Lundqvist: $8.5M
Claude Giroux: $8.275M
Ryan Getzlaf: $8.25M

(Obviously, Anze Kopitar‘s eight-year, $80 million extension likely also makes a significant impact.)

When you look at that list, $8.5 million may still seem insufficient for Stamkos, but it’s probably not an insulting offer. Right?

We’re ultimately still at the same point: speculating about whether the superstar sniper would take a moderate “hometown discount” to stay with Tampa Bay or chase a splashier deal, perhaps closer to his hometown team with a certain obscure squad in Toronto.

Stamkos has said all the right things about staying with the Bolts. We’ve heard advice for Stamkos from guys with similar experiences, such as Zach Parise.

All we really know is that reported offer of $8.5 million per year.

Then again, isn’t that uncertainty is a big part of the fun (unless you’re an anxious Lightning fan)?