Leopold the Answer for Pietrangelo?
Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been scouring the NHL in search of a left-shot D-man who can play with Alex Pietrangelo.
On Saturday Armstrong pulled the trigger on a trade adding veteran Jordan Leopold in exchange for a couple of draft picks. Buffalo gets a second round pick and a conditional fifth in return. The fifth rounder turns into a fourth round selection should the Blues win a playoff series this spring.
The Blues carry an extra fourth round draft pick they received from Tampa Bay in the B.J. Crombeen trade last summer.
They’re hopeful Leopold solidifies their back end while stabilizing Pietrangelo who’s been inconsistent at times. Several players, including former first rounder Ian Cole and veteran Wade Redden, have experimented playing next to Pietrangelo yielding marginal results.
Most Recently Barret Jackman has spent time next to Pietrangelo yet most would agree in a perfect world he’s best suited elsewhere. Jackman can fill in on the top pair but asking him to do it every game might be a stretch.
Jackman has played some of his best hockey with Kevin Shattenkirk who would welcome his partner back with open arms. If Leopold can be the player they think he can be, he’ll solve a couple of issues the Blues are dealing with.
Leopold is no stranger to being traded around the deadline. This is the third time it’s happened in his career having been dealt from Colorado to Calgary as well as from Florida to Pittsburgh a few years back.
The Minnesota native is in the third and final year of a free agent contract he signed with Buffalo prior to the 2010-2011 season. If he offers up some steady play there could be an opportunity with St. Louis beyond this year.
He spent a good chunk of this season playing with former Calder trophy winner Tyler Myers. I’m told he was hoping for a fresh start considering what’s happening with the Sabres this season. To say these are turbulent times in Buffalo might be an understatement.
The former Hobey Baker winner and two-time National Champion at the University of Minnesota, brings a heavy shot with the ability to score. Before this year he was coming off of a 13 and a 10 goal season respectively.
His numbers are obviously down but some of this can be attributed to the Sabres season.
Leopold isn’t considered a high risk D-man but he’s smart and can make a good first pass. He won’t add the physicality the Blues maybe desire but he brings a sturdy, solid frame who can move guys.
He can add some offense and probably could put up bigger numbers if he didn’t play as safe as he does. The Blues need a player to play safe if he’s going to be paired with Pietrangelo. The addition of Leopold should free up Pietrangelo which they hope leads to stronger play offensively. The Blues haven’t been the same transition team this season and Leopold will only improve this area.
The Blues didn’t make this trade with the idea of having him play with Shattenkirk even though he’d be a nice partner for either player. The Blues have a hole next to Pietrangelo and the team is hopeful Leopold is the guy.
Leopold also adds playoff experience having gone to the Stanley Cup finals with Calgary. He brings 59 playoff games which ranks second on the Blues behind Redden’s 101 playoff games. The next closest is Jackman with 21.
He’s played some pretty good hockey as of late putting up 1g, 3a, 4pts, plus-1, while averaging 20:52 over the last eight games. Overall he ranks second among Sabres D-men in ice time with 21:08 per game. He’s averaged over 2:00 on both the PP and the PK.
Leopold flies out first thing Sunday morning and should make his debut Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
A former 2nd round pick of anaheim, he came out of the U.S. National Team Development Program has has been a fixture with USA hockey over the years.
Allen Back to Peoria…
The Blues returned Jake Allen to Peoria to open up a roster spot for Leopold. Brian Elliott will return following his game tonight in Peoria where he’s spent the last few days on a conditioning assignment. He lost Friday night’s game 4-2 which included an empty netter.
The Blues have hoped Jaro Halak would be the guy all along and we shouldn’t be shocked he’ll be given that chance. Should the Blues struggle in goal they won’t hesitate to turn back to Allen if needed.
T.J. Oshie didn’t practice Saturday as is questionable for Monday’s game with a lower body injury. He’s having difficulty getting around after blocking a shot on Thursday.
If he can’t play Monday Andy McDonald will slide up to play with Alex Steen and David Backes. Jaden Schwartz would replace McDonald with Berglund and Stewart.
The Blues are sticking with eight D-men on the roster for now.
Armstrong said Director of Pro Scouting Rob DiMaio has watched Leopold play several times the last few years and believes he can be an asset.
More to come,
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