The St. Louis Blues have bolstered their defensive depth for the playoffs, acquiring veteran Zbynek Michalek and a conditional third-round pick from Arizona, per ESPN.
UPDATE: Per ESPN, prospect Maxim Letunov is on his way to Arizona. The Russian forward was St. Louis’ second-round pick (52nd overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and is currently playing in the USHL.
Michalek, 32, has appeared in 53 games for the Coyotes this season but is currently sidelined with a concussion. Prior to getting hurt, he was averaging over 21 minutes a night and was one of the league’s top shot-blockers — he currently sits 12th in the NHL, with 130.
In St. Louis, he’ll join a blueline that’s relatively stacked with Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Carl Gunnarsson, Petteri Lindbohm, Ian Cole and Barret Jackman comprising the top-six. Once Michalek and Kevin Shattenkirk return from injury, Cole and Lindbohm are the two most likely to be dropped out of the lineup, but the pair will give head coach Ken Hitchcock nice depth options in the postseason.
For Arizona…well, the tank is officially on. The club has lost nine straight and shipped out three key pieces in Michalek, Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle over the last 48 hours. The Coyotes are now in a legit dogfight for top spot in the McEichel sweeps, along with Buffalo and Edmonton.
That said, Coyotes GM Don Maloney seems pleased with landing Letunov.
“Maxim is a big, skilled center with excellent upside,” Maloney said, in a statement. “He will play at Boston University next season who do a great job developing players We are excited to have him join our organization.”
Update: Michalek updated his current health status, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac…
Z. Michalek to Sportsnet: “I’m doing better. I was able to do some exercise the last few days. … I’ve been feeling pretty good.” #stlblues
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) March 2, 2015
Worth pointing out that Michalek isn’t coming to St. Louis cheaply — he’s on a five-year, $20 million contract with a $4M annual cap hit. That said, he is in the last year of that deal and an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — and Arizona will reportedly retain 50 percent of Michalek’s salary.