Kariya, Tkachuk: Are they real values for buyers?
Editor's note: There's the March 3 trade deadline, and then there's the Olympic roster freeze that goes into effect on Feb. 12. Between now and Feb. 12, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun will look at 10 potential trade baits and which teams have a chance to land some much-needed help.
Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues
Scott Burnside: Hello, Pierre. We talked Monday about Ray Whitney and how he might be a nice secondary catch for teams that can't afford Ilya Kovalchuk, but many teams are looking to add some offensive depth before March 3 or even the Feb. 12 Olympic roster freeze. St. Louis is one place teams will look. The Blues are one of those teams that don't know whether they'll be buyers or sellers, but they do have a couple of assets who will draw interest: Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk. Both have no-movement clauses, but I have to think one or both would be agreeable to a move if it was the right situation.
Pierre LeBrun: Beginning Wednesday night in Chicago, the Blues play seven games before the Olympic break. Those games will decide whether they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. Blues president John Davidson told me Monday night it's impossible to tell where they are in terms of the trade deadline; they just don't know right now. The team's performance in the next two weeks will make that call. But how much of a market is there really for Kariya in particular? He makes a whopping $6 million and, at age 35, has only 24 points in 49 games to show for it.
Burnside: I disagree. (Hard to believe, eh, my friend?) I think there would be significant interest in Kariya because it's only short-term pain and the asking price would have to be pretty modest. (I'm guessing something along the lines of what Pittsburgh gave up for Bill Guerin last season, a third-round draft pick.) And I think there is a tremendous upside to having a player like Kariya. He won't go to a team and have to be the guy, but rather a complementary player in the way Doug Weight and Mark Recchi were in Carolina when the Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006. You know the Pens won't mind spending the money if they can fit a skilled winger under the cap, and it doesn't cost much in futures. How about Vancouver, Kariya's hometown? Or Los Angeles, which has the money and could add a couple of pieces before March 3?
LeBrun: The Kings are focused on Kovalchuk, so let's leave them out of this. The point is, a $6 million cap hit for the season is fairly hefty even as late as March 3. A team that trades for Kariya would need a little more wiggle room under the cap than most. Tkachuk, 37, would be an easier pickup capwise, at a salary of $2.15 million. And he's still a useful, veteran presence. Remember, he nearly was dealt to Boston at last season's trade deadline (the Bruins really wanted the Massachusetts native), but the Blues decided to keep him for their playoff drive at the last minute. It was the right call, because the Blues did indeed get in and Tkachuk was terrific down the stretch.
Burnside: I agree. (Thought I'd throw that in just to mix things up!) Tkachuk will be attractive to many teams because of his tough, abrasive style of play. You mentioned the Bruins; once again they will be looking to boost their moribund offense, and you have to imagine they'll take another look at Tkachuk. Two seasons ago, he came to Atlanta as a rental, so he knows the drill. And if this is his last hurrah, it's hard to believe he wouldn't want to give it one more push. How about Phoenix? He's played there before, but he could help out a Coyotes offense that will be short on playoff experience come April.
LeBrun: Because Tkachuk has a no-movement clause, however, and he and his family love St. Louis, you wonder whether he won't just want to just ride it out in a Blues uniform and retire with the team that has meant the most to him. That's if this is his last season, and he's made no public announcement on that yet. About Boston, I disagree with you. I think Kovalchuk and Whitney would be better options because the Bruins need goals more than they need leadership or sandpaper. My prediction? Neither Kariya nor Tkachuk will be moved. We'll see!
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