Blues bold to trade Stastny; door open for Tavares?

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Forgive Brayden Schenn. He’s probably new to the St. Louis Blues making courageous-yet-painful trades with the future in mind. After all, Schenn was part of a trade that was more about immediate results (and boy were those results brilliant early on).

Schenn vented upon learning about the Blues sending Paul Stastny to powerful division rivals in the Winnipeg Jets, and you can understand why. Schenn thought it was “crazy” to sell off Stastny, a pending UFA, with the Blues barely out of playoff position.

[A deep look at the trade]

As Mike Rupp and Anson Carter discussed on NBCSN yesterday, it’s definitely the sort of trade that can ruffle feathers in the locker room.

Sure, there might have been some weary grunts in the Blues locker room after seeing a quality center go to the Jets. No doubt about it, the move makes an already-scary Jets team a true frontrunner in a fairly wide-open West.

Schenn’s Blues teammates should probably remind him that this sort of thing has happened before, and if they’re being truly honest, it’s worked out quite well for GM Doug Armstrong.

Let’s consider the moments when the Blues “pulled off the Band-Aid” with players, either through trades or allowing them to walk in free agency, where other teams might have panicked and left themselves in a jam:

Stastny: Look, he’s definitely a nice player, and he’ll probably command less than the $7 million cap hit that’s now split between the Jets and Blues. That said, the aging curve has to be a consideration; Stastny is already 32.

Let’s not kid ourselves, either. The Blues went into the deadline on a six-game losing streak, looking pretty lifeless in getting shut out by the Predators the day before on NBC. If you think this team has a lukewarm ceiling even with Stastny – a player you might not want to keep – then why not get a first-rounder for him rather than letting him leave for nothing?

It becomes even more of a no-brainer when you consider that the Blues can use that free agent money on an upgrade. Darren Dreger speaks of the Blues “going all-in” on John Tavares. St. Louis isn’t necessarily the landing spot you’d think of for the superstar Islander, but who knows? And if they can’t get Tavares, maybe they’re keeping the door open for another nice player to supplement Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo, and Colton Parayko.

Ryan Reaves: Another feather in Armstrong’s cap was getting a first-rounder for a dying breed. It was great value, and also softened the blow of sending a first-rounder to Philly in the Schenn trade.

Kevin ShattenkirkAt the time, the price didn’t seem that great for the big fish of free agency, but the Capitals would beg to differ in hindsight. St. Louis grabbed some interesting pieces or a guy who was going to walk in free agency, and who knows if they land Schenn if there wasn’t a first-rounder coming back here?

Shattenkirk stands as an especially brave choice being that he was still in his prime when the Blues decided he wasn’t quite a core player.

Letting David Backes and Troy Brouwer walk: People who preach the aging curve saw this coming, and plenty of others did … but Backes was this team’s captain, and Brouwer was that sandpaper guy who could score at a nice clip.

More conservative organizations probably would have re-signed one or both of them, closing the door for future upgrades and young players to emerge at cheaper prices. You could bet the Bruins and Flames would like a mulligan on Backes and Brouwer respectively.

***

That’s just a sampling of the moves Armstrong’s made, and some have worked out better than others (the return for T.J. Oshie isn’t the greatest, even if he wasn’t meant to stick around either way).

If you want to look at an organization that, aside from Pietrangelo going fourth in 2008, hasn’t really relied on “tanking” to stay competitive, look no further than the Blues. Sure, it’s been frustrating for fans – and sometimes players like Schenn – to see this team stop just short of finding that extra gear, but they’ve been remarkably spry in staying competitive. It wouldn’t be surprising if they slip into the playoffs, even if they end up being first-round fodder.

Of course, praise for Armstrong will grow much louder if the Blues finally make a leap. Maybe moving Stastny will help them move the needle?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

mark stone surgery
Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.