ESPN The Magazine: Hradek's Hrink
With his first trade deadline just minutes behind him, broadcaster-turned-Blues-president John Davidson stood in the Scottrade Center office of St. Louis GM Larry Pleau. If Davidson were still in the booth, he might have let out his trademark, "Oh, baby!"
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Instead, he just sighed.
"I was a little worn out," recalled Davidson, who spent deadline day surrounded by Pleau, finance VP Jerry Jasiek, top scouts Jarmo Kekalainen and Kevin McDonald and VP of hockey ops Al MacInnis, the future Hall of Fame blue-liner. "But we felt good about what we did."
Well, they should. When the fax machines stopped humming, the Blues had turned aging free-agent forwards Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin into two first-round picks (and a third-rounder) in the 2007 draft, a second-round pick in 2008, talented offensive prospect in Minnesota forward Jay Barriball and two more forwards, Glen Metropolit and Ville Nieminen.
"We started getting calls about six weeks before the deadline," said Davidson, whose work as a first-time dealer got high marks from other GMs. "But we weren't ready to trade. We were playing well, pushing toward a playoff spot."
With each passing game, though, Davidson realized the Blues wouldn't make up the points needed to be in the postseason mix. Meanwhile, the calls kept coming. "I think I spoke to every team," he said, "about a lot of different players."
As the deadline neared, the Blues signed three of their potential free agents: defenseman Eric Brewer, goalie Manny Legace and forward Jamal Mayers. And the trade focus tightened on Tkachuk and Guerin, both highly skilled veterans. Several teams (Ducks, Thrashers, Wings) were competing for Tkachuk.
Late Saturday night, 60 hours before the deadline, Davidson heard that Atlanta, angling for a playoff run, had traded for D-man Alexei Zhitnik. He quickly called GM Don Waddell to see if he was still interested in Tkachuk. A couple of hours later, Davidson signed off on the deal, receiving Metropolit, a No. 1 and two other picks.
That left Guerin. Davidson wanted to do right by his club and the All-Star wing. "Billy almost signed with the Sharks in the summer," Davidson said, "so we knew he'd be comfortable going there."
Talks continued through deadline-day morning, with the Blues ultimately getting the high-energy Nieminen, Barriball and a No. 1. Best of all, both Tkachuk and Guerin are unrestricted free agents, so the Blues can re-sign them in the offseason (as they did last summer with Doug Weight).
"It was a wild few weeks," said Davidson, who credited Pleau and his staff. "We got a lot of picks. Now we have to make them work for us."
Even a rookie knows that'll be the hard part.
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