Jason Brough

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates with the puck during the NHL game against the Arizonna Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Would the Blues give up Shattenkirk for Drouin?

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Trade rumors are starting to swirl about the St. Louis Blues.

Specifically, about the Blues acquiring Jonathan Drouin from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“To me, the team that’s most interesting to watch right now is probably St. Louis,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 radio, per Today’s Slapshot. “Not only because I think they’re in on Drouin, but they haven’t won yet since the calendar flipped. There’s a lot of expectations on this team. They kind of lurch forward and lurch backwards.”

We wrote yesterday about the Blues’ recent stretch of blowing leads. They play in Anaheim tonight and Los Angeles tomorrow. They’re still comfortably in a playoff position, but they say they’re not “taking anything for granted.”

So, how might the Blues be able to pry Drouin out of Tampa Bay? Well, here’s a hint from ESPN’s Craig Custance:

…GM Doug Armstrong will soon be faced with a difficult decision regarding defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. Multiple sources have said Shattenkirk’s name is in play on the trade front, not because the Blues don’t like him, but because they probably can’t afford to keep him when his contract runs out after next season.

Back to Tampa Bay, where it’s no secret the Lightning covet “a puck-moving, power-play right-shot defenseman.” They have Anthony DeAngelo in the system, but he’s only 20. Shattenkirk, 26, is all those things, plus NHL-ready now.

Just for fun, let’s say Steve Yzerman put a Drouin-for-Shattenkirk trade on the table. The big question may be whether the Blues would do that deal now, or whether they’d insist on waiting until the offseason.

After all, losing Shattenkirk — even if it meant adding Drouin — would be a huge short-term adjustment for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Shattenkirk has 25 points, nine more than any other Blues d-man. That includes 15 power-play points, which is 12 more than any other Blues d-man.

Of course, in that scenario, if the Blues did insist on waiting until the offseason, they may lose out on Drouin.

Still waiting for that ‘big bounce-back’ by the Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Head coach Peter DeBoer talks to his team during their game against the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center on October 10, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks didn’t make our mid-season list of the five most disappointing teams in the NHL.

Maybe that was on oversight on our part, because the Sharks — even after getting Logan Couture back — just cannot seem to pull it together.

They lost against last night, falling 2-1 at home to Detroit. They’re 1-3-0 on their current five-game home stand. They’re 5-10-2 in their last 17. And most damning of all, they’re three points back of a playoff spot in the awful Pacific Division.

We’d give the Sharks credit for the two or three games in hand they hold on most of the other teams in the Pacific, but you have to win those games for that to be a factor.

“Frustrating we didn’t get points, but I liked our effort, I liked our response after last game,” coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area said last night. “Two great chances to go ahead 2-1 just before they scored. That’s the way things are going right now. We’ve got to be resilient and know that if we play that way, that over the long term we’ll be alright.”

And to be fair, DeBoer had a point. If not for Petr Mrazek’s brilliant save, maybe the Sharks end up winning last night. San Jose did outshoot Detroit, 36-25.

But Joe Pavelski was also right: “We’ve got to find ways to win…that’s the bottom line.”

Remember, when DeBoer was hired in May, he predicted a “big bounce-back” for the Sharks.

“You’ve got a lot of proud people here that aren’t too happy about where they were sitting at the end of last season,” he said. “My history with that is, if you’ve got character and you’ve been through that, you’re ready to push back. And I think we’re going to see that.”

There’s still plenty of time for that prediction to come true, but 18-18-2 after 38 games certainly does not qualify.

The Sharks host the Leafs Saturday.

Stars extend GM Jim Nill, who has ‘helped instill a culture of excellence’

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Jim Nill of the Detroit Red Wings works the draft floor during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The report was accurate. The Dallas Stars have indeed signed general manager Jim Nill to a contract extension through 2022-23.

“In just over two years, Jim has helped instill a culture of excellence within our organization and extending that partnership to 2022-23 is vital for the direction of the hockey club,” said Stars owner Tom Gaglardi in a release. “From the day he stepped into this role, he has displayed tremendous decision-making in the re-tooling of our group and we’re excited to build upon the foundation that has been laid. We feel he is one of the best general managers in our league and we are thrilled he is so committed to us.”

“I’ve said over and over again, just how special of a group we have here in Dallas, and developing and maintaining a winning organization is something I look forward to over the next seven years,” added Nill.

From the release:

Since joining the Stars, Nill has dramatically re-shaped the team’s culture and roster with a series of trades and acquisitions. In the summer of 2013, he hired veteran coach Lindy Ruff to serve as the team’s head coach and acquired young superstar center, Tyler Seguin, in a blockbuster, seven-player deal with the Boston Bruins. Seeing the need for continued depth at the center position, Nill once again made headlines in the 2014 offseason by bringing in center Jason Spezza via trade with Ottawa to give the Stars one of the most dynamic one-two combinations in the NHL. This past summer, he acquired three-time Stanley Cup champion Patrick Sharp in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed free agent defenseman Johnny Oduya and goaltender Antti Niemi.

It has not been smooth sailing the entire time for Nill in Dallas. The Stars started poorly last season and it cost them a spot in the playoffs.

“Sometimes it’s one step forward and two steps back,” Nill told PHT last December.

But compared to before he got the job, well, there’s no comparison. The Stars are not only winning, they’re winning in entertaining fashion. Average attendance is 18,261 this season. His first season, it was 15,421.

When Nill was hired, the Stars had missed the playoffs five straight seasons.

Quenneville credits Keith for improved play of Blackhawks

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As Duncan Keith has returned to form, so too have the Chicago Blackhawks.

That’s how big an impact the 32-year-old defenseman has on his team, as if we didn’t learn that already last spring.

“I think he’s played a lot better here as we’ve progressed, coming out of Christmas and going on from there,” coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “He seems to be involved with our attack offensively, off the point, he scored a big goal for us the other night at home (Sunday vs. Ottawa). It’s not just the offense but important minutes in all situations. He’s one of those defensemen who makes a big impact on our team and you can see more predictability in our team game since he’s been back.”

Keith missed 10 games with a knee injury earlier in the season. The ‘Hawks are 17-6-3 since he’s been back.

Despite all those wins, many still wonder if GM Stan Bowman might try to add another defenseman prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all proven top-4 defenders that can handle big minutes in the postseason. One more of those types wouldn’t hurt, with all due respect to Trevor van Riemsdyk and the others.

Related: ‘Hawks praise TVR’s ‘mind for the game’

Kings believe there’s ‘still some upside’ in Luke Schenn

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Luke Schenn is only 26 years old, but it feels like he’s been in the NHL for a long time.

The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, he was once touted as a future captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s since been traded twice. First to Philadelphia, for James van Riemsdyk. Yesterday, to Los Angeles, for considerably less.

Unlike the expectations Schenn carried in Toronto and Philadelphia, for now, all the Kings want from their new right-shot defenseman is to fill the hole that Matt Greene‘s season-ending injury left.

“He’s very familiar with Drew Doughty and some of our players here, and it’s a chance for him to just come in and be himself, you know, and not have to worry about being a top pick and all of the expectations and everything else,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Wednesday. “He kind of reminds me where Matt Greene was when we first got Greener, and these guys are important guys in the mix.”

Schenn is a pending unrestricted free agent who didn’t have a future in Philadelphia. The Flyers have a promising crop of young defenseman. Some have already arrived, others will be coming soon.

“Luke understood where we were as a franchise,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall told CSN Philly. “And that we had numbers. He was a UFA and probably sensed something was coming. He was excited to go to L.A. and a top team … he knew half a dozen players from L.A.”

Schenn has already played 523 games in the NHL, and that’s a pretty good sample size to determine a player’s worth.

Still, Lombardi sees untapped potential.

“You’re dealing with a 26-year-old,” Lombardi said. “I think there’s still some upside in this kid.”