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Claude Watch: The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues Have Reportedly Entered the Chat

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The Claude Giroux sweepstakes are heating up by the day as the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues have now entered the race as the front-runners alongside the Colorado Avalanche. Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now has been the source to follow for all the rumours regarding Claude Giroux lately. After stipulating last week that the Flyers have been scouting Avalanche games, certain players that could be on the move like Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher, and the likelihood of a trade; he added more fuel to the fire last night. 

He mentioned that Claude Giroux has made it known to the Philadelphia Flyers and Chuck Fletcher that if he were to waive no-movement clause for a trade, Colorado is his preferred choice. If a trade with Colorado can’t transpire, then St. Louis and Minnesota are also acceptable destinations.

As previously mentioned, the Flyers have been scouting the Avalanche for some time now, knowing that Giroux prefers Colorado and that the Avalanche are trying to go all-in before dealing with a slew of UFAs this summer including Nathan Mackinnon and Nazem Kadri. The Avalanche have just recently given Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog expensive extensions, so money is currently tight moving forward and this is their best chance at winning a Cup. 

Names that have been mentioned include Jost, Compher, as well as prospects like Justin Barron, and Sampo Ranta. They have inquired about the likes of Alex Newhook and Bowen Byram but the likelihood of either one being moved or being available for that matter, is extremely low. The Avalanche view both players as building blocks for the future and wouldn’t necessarily want to part ways with either for a rental in Giroux. 

With the Wild and the Blues now reportedly joining the race for the Flyers captain, it can make things more interesting and could potentially force the hands of these divisional rivals. The Avalanche are currently first in the Central Division, ahead of the Wild by 9 points and the Blues 13 points. The Wild have played 2 less games than the Avalanche and Blues. To make things more interesting, the Avalanche play the Wild twice more and the Blues once more, while the Wild and Blues go head to head twice more as well. 

These three teams are well acquainted with each other, they’re going to see each after the trade deadline, and they’re now in the hunt for one of the more coveted trade deadline pieces this year. Giroux has reportedly stated that the Avalanche are his preferred destination but that won’t stop a potential bidding war between the 3 rivals. He will have the final say in the end but if the Buffalo Sabres can attract a bidding war for Rasmus Ristolainen and have the Flyers pay a fortune for his services, then Giroux could attract that and then some. 

Out of the three teams involved, the Minnesota Wild, could arguably have the better prospect pipeline in terms of quantity. The Avalanche may have players like Byram and Newhook but because they’re currently and seemingly off-limits, the Wild could be the same way with Marco Rossi. The former 9th overall pick in 2020 collected 185 points in his two years with the Ottawa 67’s, including 120 in his draft year, before sitting out from hockey in 2020-21 due to further complications with COVID. He has risen back to the top of Wild list with his 37 points in 34 games with the Iowa Wild of the AHL. He’s the game-breaker the Flyers would love to have and would be trying to covet and if he’s available in the slightest, they should do as much as they can to attain his services. 

Other top prospects that the Flyers would be interested in include: Matthew Boldy, Calen Addison, Marat Khusnutdinov, Adam Beckman, Carson Lambos, and Alexander Khovanov. Boldy was a first rounder taken 2 picks before Cam York, who has enjoyed success at the pro-level with 28 points in 24 games with the Iowa Wild and 14 points in 13 NHL games this year. Addison was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins but then traded alongside a first round pick and Alex Galchenyuk for Jason Zucker in 2020. In parts of 2 seasons at the AHL level he has amassed 39 points in only 54 games as a defenseman, while adding 2 goals and 3 points in 9 games this season with the NHL club. To round out a great crop is Beckman, who amassed 197 points in 152 games in the WHL. In his draft+1 year he scored 48 goals and 107 points and then played in the WHL, AHL, and NHL in 2021-22. These three are probably the most ripe and ready “prospects” the Wild have that are young and can play for the Flyers immediately. 

As for the St. Louis Blues, they have prospects like Scott Perunovich, Jake Neighbours, Zach Bolduc, Simon Robertson, and Klim Kostin. Perunovich was drafted in 2018 but has enjoyed success where he has played in the early parts of his career. In three years with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, he recorded 105 points in 115 games and won the Hobey Baker Award in 2020 as the top NCAA hockey player. He also racked up 18 assists and 20 points in 12 games this year with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL, as well as 6 assists at the NHL level. Neighbours was drafted 26th overall in 2020 and has spent the last 5 years in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He scored 170 points in 165 games in the WHL as well as 1 goal and 2 points in 9 games with the Blues. 

Bolduc was drafted 17th overall in 2021 and went from 29 points in 27 game during his draft year with the Rimouski Oceanic to 40 points in 32 games with the Quebec Remparts this year. He’s a big body, can play a 200-foot game, and has a really good shot. Kostin was drafted 31st overall in 2017 and was regarded as a steal of the first round, considering that he dropped from his original rankings. He has spent parts of 4 years with the Thunderbirds with 84 points in 184 games, while also playing 32 games this season with the Blues. He also spent parts of the 2020-21 season in the KHL adding 18 points in 43 games. In terms of most ripe and ready, Kostin would fit the bill alongside Perunovich. 

The Avalanche are currently in the driver’s seat because there is reported mutual interest between team and player and since Giroux has the final say, the Avalanche have most of the leverage. However, if the Avalanche can’t meet the demands of the Flyers, it will make things more interesting for the Wild and the Blues. The Wild arguably have more to give than either team, with the Blues lacking in terms of quantity and quality. 

The Blues and Avalanche don’t have much cap space to work with, but it is still maneuverable with the Flyers most likely retaining half of Giroux’s $8.25 million cap hit. The Wild have just above $2 million to play with so they become an even easier team to deal with. Roster players are going to have to be involved to make the money work but it’s easily manageable since players like Jost, Compher, Jordan Greenway, Robert Thomas, and others earn enough to make the salaries match.

If the Wild and Blues really want Giroux, they might have to cough up a little more than they’re willing to if their top rival in Colorado is lurking around. The bidding war is finally going to come to Philadelphia and Chuck Fletcher is going to have a lot of discussions with the three teams mentioned as well as Giroux as the trade deadline looms. This is arguably the biggest trade in recent memory for the Flyers and one that can make the most impact for the future and present. 

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