When St. Louis Blues' senior hockey adviser Larry Pleau got the call the other day, he had to laugh. It was retired Blues forward Keith Tkachuk on the line and he wanted his former boss to know he was ready to be moved at the deadline.
Anywhere, any team, because no one is sacred, not these days.
The Blues may have already pulled the biggest trade the NHL will see this month but that doesn't mean they've put out the closed-for-business sign. Like their 29 NHL peers, the Blues are keyed for Monday's 3 p.m. (ET) trade deadline and whatever presents itself, and that has their players nervous wondering what's coming next.
"When you see your captain traded you know anything can happen," said Blues forward Andy McDonald. "That really surprised us. We're all still a little edgy in here."
Earlier this month, the Blues stunned the hockey scene by acquiring forward Chris Stewart, defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional second-round draft pick from the Colorado Avalanche for defenceman/former captain Erik Johnson, forward Jay McClement and a conditional first-round pick.
The exchange was unique in that it swapped young players for young players instead of involving aging veterans, unrestricted free agents or salary dumps. It also sent an unmistakable message: everyone's in play, anything's possible. And the Blues look as if they may not be done.
Following Sunday's game against the Calgary Flames, the players chartered home for Tuesday's rematch against Calgary while the St. Louis brain trust remained behind. Team president John Davidson, personnel director Dave Taylor, Pleau and the scouting staff chose to stay so they could be on the ground in case office-bound general manager Doug Armstrong was keen to strike again.
"Everybody will be busy on Monday," Pleau said. "A lot of the work is done but it's just a matter of following up on the conversations that started at the all-star break. It's all about finding the right dance partner. Once you do, why wait?"
Pleau, like others around the NHL, believes there will be plenty of dancing at the deadline even though 24 trades have already been made since Feb. 9. There are rumours the Vancouver Canucks may add to their depth (Marty Reasoner from the Florida Panthers?); talk the Los Angeles Kings will add another benchmark forward while the Edmonton Oilers are likely to trade Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner or defenceman Ladislav Smid.
The Flames have gone on record stating they're not expecting to do much of anything, personnel-wise. Their wish list includes another defenceman and a top-nine forward, bit parts at best. With the Flames having turned their season around, acting GM Jay Feaster has said the players deserve the opportunity to see how far they can go as a group.
That has sent a ripple of calm through the dressing room.
"Personally, I'm not all that involved in it," said defenceman Cory Sarich. "I'm not watching the trade stuff [on television]or reading about it."
What about friends e-mailing and texting him trade rumours?
"I don't have any of that stuff," Sarich added.
"We're just going out and trying to win games and not let anything be a distraction," said forward Curtis Glencross.
The Blues are still postseason possibilities in the Western Conference and have gotten a spark from Stewart, who scored six goals in his first five games following the trade. He said he was caught off guard by the move but has been reinvigorated by his new team's playoff push.
"I was coming off an injury but [the Blues]played me with some great players and things started to happen," Stewart said. "I feel like I'm back where I was at the beginning of the year, feeling good and ready to go."
As for Tkachuk, he's ready to go, too. Wherever the Blues want to send him Monday.
"He can only [draw]a second-round pick this year," kidded Taylor.