ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Blues are in rebuilding mode again after dealing off several veteran players. General manager Doug Armstrong said it's not from lack of financial backing.
Armstrong said Tuesday that ownership had cleared him to make upgrades before the trade deadline but that the talent pool was too shallow and too expensive for a short-term lift that would conflict with the earlier salary-shaving trades of Eric Brewer, Brad Boyes and Brad Winchester for draft picks.
The Blues were 13th in the Western Conference and seven points out of the final playoff spot heading into Tuesday night's game against the Calgary Flames and are likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
A private equity firm that is the largest investor in the franchise, TowerBrook Capital Partners, announced last spring that it would sell its share of the team. The payroll is among the lowest in the NHL, but the general manager said the ongoing search for a new backer was not a factor.
"I just didn't think the field was big enough. If we were going to make a trade, it had to be the right trade, and I thought there were going to be better opportunities moving ahead."
Ben Bishop, a 24-year-old goalie prospect, made his third straight start Tuesday with Jaroslav Halak missing his eighth game with a fractured hand. Backup goalie Ty Conklin cleared waivers and Armstrong said he'd be with St. Louis the rest of the season.
"Anything can happen, we can make a great push," Armstrong said. "Ben might be the next Patrick Roy, you never know. We're hoping for the best, but we're dealing in reality."
Armstrong expected Halak back by the weekend but forward David Perron remained sidelined by a concussion sustained in early November.
"He's feeling somewhat the same. I would say there's no real progress there," Armstrong said.
Forward Vladimir Sobotka will be out a month with a broken left foot from blocking a shot Sunday in Calgary and Armstrong said rookie forward Philip McRae will be placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a lower body injury.