With the trade deadline only four days away, the Blues added much needed defensive depth on Saturday. The Blues announced Saturday afternoon that they had acquired Jordan Leopold from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 2013 second-round draft pick, as well as a conditional 2013 fifth-round pick. The condition of the fifth round pick is that if Blues win a playoff round their fifth round pick turns into a fourth rounder for Buffalo.
“This was a move we were trying to make using either prospects or picks,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong in a conference call. “Right now our depth is strong and we didn’t have to use a roster player to improve our team.”
“(Leopold) provides us with stability and experience back there. He’s touched every aspect of Buffalo’s game. He’s second on their team in ice time among defensemen. He’s third in penalty killing for their defense, and second for power-play time on defense. He’s a guy that is going to come in here and give us good steady (play) on our back-end.”
Leopold, 32, had been rumored to be on the Sabres' trade block and fits the Blues' need for a puck moving left-handed defenseman to play alongside Alex Pietrangelo or Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues feel that Leopold will be a good fit with one of those two young defensemen.
“The one thing that this season has shown is that (Barret) Jackman has good chemistry with Alex (Pietrangelo) or with (Kevin) Shattenkirk,” said Armstrong. “Recently, I like the pairing of Kris Russell and Roman Polak and I think the coaches do as well. I think Jordan is going to get an opportunity to play with one of the two other guys. Obviously Ken Hitchcock and Brad Shaw will make that decision but it gives us a little bit more flexibility and we will find out where the proper chemistry is.”
The 206-pound defenseman has accumulated 65 goals and 137 assists over ten National Hockey League (NHL) seasons with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Buffalo Sabres.
Leopold had his best season for the Sabres during the 2010-11 campaign when he registered 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 71 games. The Golden Valley, Minnesota native is off to a slow start this season with only eight points (two goals, six assists) in 24 games. The Blues are hoping a change of scenery sparks the veteran. Leopold was sidelined for eight games earlier in the season with an upper-body injury. The injury required an IR stint.
Leopold also brings playoff experience with him to St. Louis, something that will be an asset to the Blues should they make the postseason. He has appeared in 59 playoff games in his career, accumulating 16 points (16 assists).
The veteran defenseman is currently in the final year of his three-year, $9 million contract. If the Blues determine that Leopold is a solid fit for their organization, they will certainly be open to re-signing him.
“The beauty of this is we will get a good look at him and he will get a good look at us and see if there is a fit,” said Armstrong. “We are hoping he comes in and plays well and finds chemistry. He’s a 1980 birth date, so he certainly has some miles left on the tires. If it’s a good fit it’s something we can certainly look at.”
In addition to acquiring Leopold, the Blues have sent goaltender Jake Allen to Peoria. Goaltender Brian Elliott is expected to return to the Blues on Saturday after he wraps up his short conditioning assignment in Peoria. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Elliott will partner with Jaroslav Halak for the remainder of the season.
According to Armstrong, the Blues will carry eight defensemen for the remainder of the season but with the trade deadline looming on Wednesday, there’s still time for general manager Doug Armstrong to try to improve his club.
“You are always looking and the phones aren’t going to stop ringing until Wednesday, he said. “We feel a lot stronger and we feel our depth is much more improved at 3 o’clock today than it was at 3’oclock yesterday.”