Friday, August 26, 2016


Armstrong maintains Sobotka to return to Blues; Steen healing well following 
surgery; Shattenkirk, Tarasenko earn 'A's; Bouwmeester's selection to Canada 

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong doesn't seem worried, despite what began as growing concern that's turned into frustration among Blues fans.

The Blues' general manager, after announcing Alex Pietrangelo as the franchise's 21st captain and the rest of the leadership group, was faced with the questions again regarding forward Vladimir Sobotka.

What's the latest? Is he returning to St. Louis after two seasons with Avangard Omsk or not?

If one believes recent reports out of Russia, Sobotka will return to Omsk for a third season after the club brought in a new head coach, which was at the root of the problems facing Sobotka.

Armstrong maintained his stance Thursday as nothing different that what he's been saying all summer: Sobotka, 29, will return to the Blues after talking with agent Petr Svoboda.

"I've talked to Petr Svoboda, I would say, daily over the last few weeks and every other day the weeks prior to that, and nothing has changed," Armstrong said. "I talked to him again today, (Sobotka) is getting ready for the World Cup. He's planning on staying here when that's over and coming back to our franchise. He's excited about it. It's one of those ones where I understand everyone's nervousness because he's not here. But he's not going to be here until after the World Cup, so I think the questions are going to persist until he gets off the plane at Lambert and comes into the Mills or to Scottrade and when he does that, this will finally be behind us."

Sobotka, when he finally returns to the NHL, will have to play out his arbitration-awarded one-year, $2.725 million contract. He originally signed a three-year contract to play with Omsk but had an opt-out clause after the first year.

Sobotka has put up 28 goals and 44 assists in 97 games in the KHL, including 18 goals and 16 assists in 44 games this past season. His last season in the NHL with the Blues in 2013-14, Sobotka had nine goals and 24 assists in 61 games.

Armstrong said he's spoken directly with Sobotka over the phone but looks forward to talking to him in person in Toronto at the World Cup

"Yeah, we'll certainly meet there," Armstrong said. "I've talked to him on the telephone over the summer. His focus right now is obviously preparing (for the World Cup). Ironically that's the first team that Canada plays that 'Petro' plays against and I'll be working for Canada. So we'll get an up close look at him very early. But I'll certainly try and bump into him there like I will all of our players."

Sobotka reportedly sustained a shoulder injury in the KHL but has been cleared to play.

"Yeah, he's passed all the physicals, he's ready to play for the Czech national team and he'll be ready for our team also," Armstrong said.

Stay tuned.

* Steen on track -- Alexander Steen, who had left shoulder surgery on June 3 to repair an injury originally sustained Feb. 20 in Arizona, has been healing nicely according to Armstrong.

Armstrong said the recovery and re-evaluation timeline originally was 4-6 months, which would at the earliest put Steen at Oct. 3, or nine days before the season-opener.

The Blues are optimistic that time frame is closer to the four months rather than the later, since Armstrong said the rehab time is going well.

"Very good. He came in, met with our doctors," Armstrong said of Steen. "He had pushed very hard to be able to participate in the World Cup. It was a 4-6 month injury, going to be re-evaluated in four, which is October 3rd. He worked very hard, it's just not going to happen. But he looks like he's in great shape, he's ahead of schedule and we're hoping that he's ready for Game 1 and if not Game 1, very early in the season, but all things are very positive.

"We're still quite a ways from camp, but I would think he'll jump right into the flow drills, that's the idea now. But we're not going to be penny-wise, pound-foolish. Whether he participates in battle drills in early September or mid-September, I'm not that concerned about."

Steen, 32, who enters the 2016-17 season in the final year of his contract, was among the finalists for the 'C' that was awarded to Pietrangelo.

"Alexander is a great player and he's a huge part of this leadership group," Armstrong said. "'Petro' understands that. I've met with all the assistant captains, or talked to them all, and told them how important their job responsibilities are for this team. Like Alex last year and like Alexander last year and this year, if you're a true leader, you don't really need a letter to prove it, and these guys don't need that. They've been leaders on this team and on prior teams, and nothing is going to change for Alexander Steen. He's a top player for us, as are the other players that we named assistant captains. And now it's just a recognition publicly of what we've known privately, that they're a huge part of our leadership group."

* Shattenkirk, Stastny, Tarasenko also named alternate captains -- Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko were named with Steen as alternate captains for the upcoming season, two for home games and the other two away, and the pairs will alternate home and away at the midpoint of the season.

Shattenkirk, who was the subject of trade rumors, most heavily at the NHL Draft in June, enters the final year of his four-year, $17 million contract that pays him $5.2 million this season.

Rumors were running rampant at the draft that Shattenkirk would most certainly be dealt, but now it's almost a certainty that Shattenkirk will open the season with the Blues and any lingering trade rumors can be put to rest.

For the time being.

"I think when you're building your team, it would have been a disservice not to make him an 'A,'" Armstrong said. "He's earned the right. As I said, this is just a public recognition of something we've known privately. He's a big part of this team, he's a very good player, and more importantly he's a very good leader."

As for Tarasenko, who was the target of criticism towards the end of the Blues' playoff run, which ended in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks, he indicated that he'd like to be part of the leadership group and management has rewarded him with that honor.

"I think he's probably where 'Petro' was a few years ago when he first got the 'A,'" Armstrong said of Tarasenko. "You want to get into the league and you want to find your way around the league. You want to find out where the locker rooms are in each building, you want to find out which hotels are good and what hotels are bad. When you've done that, you want to become a confident player on the ice. Obviously Vladi has done that, he's been a 40-goal scorer, a second-team All-Star and this is just a natural progression as his growth as a person and a player. We expect great things of him on the ice and now this is an additional responsibility off the ice."

One player who didn't get a letter but will be counted on is Jaden Schwartz, who was drafted in the first round with Tarasenko in 2010 and will be counted on to take a bigger role on the team after signing a five-year, $26.75 million contract this summer.

"Another player that's going to share in that load, that's not wearing an 'A' right now is Jaden Schwartz," Armstrong said. "These players have to take a bigger part of our group and they can't be looking over their shoulder now for other guys to do the uncomfortable things. They have to start doing those things themselves."

* Bouwmeester's addition to Team Canada -- When defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was named as a replacement for injured Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, names like P.K. Subban, Kris Letang and/or Mark Giordano surfaced as possible replacements.

But Armstrong, the GM of Team Canada, opted for a guy he's familiar with and a guy that was on Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics despite some criticism over the decision.

"Well, once we found out 'Dunc' wasn't going to be able to join us at the World Cup, we got all the managers and coaches on the phone," Armstrong said. "What we're looking at is building a team there and in a team, you need different elements. We felt comfortable when we named our initial roster to have four right-handed defensemen and three left-handed defensemen and when we lost a left-handed defenseman, we felt it was very important to replace that. When you look around the NHL, there's an abundance of left-handed defensemen and not as many right-handed defensemen, and you'll see a lot of lefties play the right but you very rarely see a right-handed defenseman play the left. So the thought process was, worst-case scenario, you go into the tournament and you lose a left-handed guy, can you support five right-handed defensemen on one team? Ultimately we felt that we couldn't, so we wanted to go with a lefty and 'Bouw's resume speaks for itself. Obviously two World Championships, being a gold medalist in Sochi, logging 25-plus minutes for the last decade, he's earned the right to be there and certainly familiar with (Team Canada coach) Mike Babcock and myself, so it was an easy decision."

* Could Blues bring in more PTO's? -- The Blues already have two veterans (wing T.J. Galiardi and defenseman Mike Weber) coming to training camp on professional tryouts and depending on the results of the World Cup, could add more.

Galiardi, 28, most recently played in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets during the 2014-15 season and had one goal in 38 games; he played for the Malmo Redhawks last season in the Swedish Hockey League and had three goals and 12 assists in 29 games,

Weber, 28, split the 2015-16 season with the Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals, where he one goal and four assists in 45 games (all five points coming with Buffalo in 35 games).

"Marty Brodeur, Kevin McDonald and Rob DiMaio are heading that up," Armstrong said regarding the PTO's. "They're talking to different guys. We may need now with Bouwmeester going off to the World Cup, we'll probably look to make sure we have enough to make sure we have a really strong, solid training camp. And with injuries in today's game, you want to make sure you have enough healthy bodies. 

"I think we're a good sale for PTO's because we had two guys earn contracts last year (Scottie Upshall and Scott Gomez)."

Martin Havlat also earned a contract after a PTO but cut short his NHL comeback after just two games. Havlat did score one goal (a game-winner) in his Blues debut at New Jersey last season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bouwmeester added to Team Canada roster

Blues defenseman will replace injured 
Blackhawks' Duncan Keith on World Cup of Hockey roster

ST. LOUIS -- Add Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to the list of Blues who will compete in next month's World Cup of Hockey.

Hockey Canada announced Wednesday that Bouwmeester has been added to Team Canada’s roster for the tournament in Toronto, which is set to begin Sept. 17 and run through Oct. 1.
Jay Bouwmeester

Bouwmeester, 32, will replace injured Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith and be making his 11th appearance for Canada on the national stage. 

The Edmonton, Alberta, native is a six-time medalist, including earning gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2003 and 2004 World Championships and the 2004 World Cup.

Bouwmeester joins teammate Alex Pietrangelo on Team Canada. Other Blues participating in the tournament include Colton Parayko (Team North America), Vladimir Tarasenko (Team Russia), Dmitrij Jaskin and Vladimir Sobotka (Team Czech Republic) and Jori Lehtera (Team Finland). Alexander Steen was originally selected by Team Sweden but will not play to rehab his surgically repaired shoulder.

Last season, the 6-foot-4, 209-pound Bouwmeester appeared in 72 games for the Blues, posting 19 points (three goals, 16 assists). Bouwmeester had four assists in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season.

Overall, Bouwmeester has 376 points (81 goals, 295 assists) in 990 NHL regular season games as well as six assists in 38 postseason games.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Blues, Schwartz come to terms on five-year contract

Left wing signs for $26.75 million, avoids 
salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz was part of the first group of players up for a salary arbitration hearing on July 20.

The Blues' left wing can scratch those plans off his calendar now that the restricted free agent and the team have agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth $26.75 million, or an average annual value of $5.35 million per season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Left wing Jaden Schwartz signed a five-year contract on
Friday and avoided salary arbitration. 

Schwartz, 24, one of the two Blues' 2010 first-round picks (Vladimir Tarasenko was the other), is coming off a two-year bridge contract in 2014 that paid him $2 million in 2014-15 and $2.7 million this past season.

Schwartz is coming off a season in which he played 33 games after sustaining a fractured left ankle Oct. 23 that forced him to miss 49 games; he had eight goals and 14 assists in the regular season and four goals and 10 assists in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games helping the Blues reach the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.

Prior to last season, Schwartz put up his best two seasons in the NHL, including a career-high in goals (28), assists (35) and points (63) in 75 games during the 2014-15 season; he had 25 goals and 31 assists in 80 games in 2013-14.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong maintained all along after the season that signing Schwartz to a long-term deal was the top priority of the franchise and would give the Blues a clear picture which direction they were headed in, particularly as far as their cap number is concerned.

Schwartz is part of a younger core group that includes Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko and Jake Allen.

"We've had great success with a number of players and now, it's important for that group now to support the veteran players," Armstrong said after the season ended. 

Schwartz has 157 points (70 goals, 87 assists) in 240 regular season games and 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 38 playoff.

* NOTES -- The Blues also came to terms on one-year, two-way contracts for goalies Jordan Binnington and Pheonix Copley on Friday.

Binnington and Copley, who played in the American Hockey League with the Chicago Wolves last season, are expected to compete for the No. 1 job with the Wolves again this season.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Blues lose Backes, Brouwer to free agency, add Perron

Allen signs extension, Ott departs, Hutton signs on to be backup

ST. LOUIS -- David Perron is coming home and David Backes is leaving home were all part of a furious and raucous first day of the NHL free agency period that opened on Friday.

For the Blues, who were in the Western Conference Final just five-plus weeks ago, it was a big hit to not only their longest-tenured player but a hit to their veteran leadership core.

The Blues were able to add the veteran Perron, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks last season with a two-year, $7.5 million contract and they shored up their goaltending by signing Jake Allen to a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension and getting him a backup in former Nashville Predators goalie Carter Hutton, who inked a two-year, $2.25 million contract.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Backes departs St. Louis after 10 seasons, including the past five as
captain after signing a five-year, $30 million contract with Boston.

More on the additions later, but the Blues' now must turn to replacing a trio of veterans in Backes, Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott, who brought a wealth of NHL experience and leadership to the locker room and helped the Blues reach a conference final for the first time since 2001. 

None more bigger than Backes, who after becoming an unrestricted free agent at 11 a.m. (CT), signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins after going through all the emotional invested trials and tribulations of trying to stay on with the only franchise he's ever known. 

In the end, the sides couldn't come to an agreement on the term, or the $6 million average annual value.

And so Backes leaves with 727 regular season games played, 206 goals and 460 points. He had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games this past spring.

"I think there was contact this morning even and it was more of just a 'Let's touch base and make sure that through the free agency process, we'll keep the door open,'" Backes said Friday evening. "Maybe we end up circling back and making this work. By five minutes after 11, the phones were ringing and the offers were coming in and it was something where each side was doing what they thought was in their best interests at the moment and making business decisions. Trust me, we tried and banged our heads against the wall and we couldn't get the two sides to line up to get something done and now we're turning a page.

"... I think there were conversations to try to get a team-friendly contract to bring me back and to keep me in the fold here. How that all looks like when it's printed out and it's on a contract and the numbers are all laid out, that was the struggle and how long that can be and what that all, without getting into specifics because I don't think that benefits anyone at the moment, it didn't line up. I'm looking for a little assurance that I can retire a Blue and have my whole career here. The Blues just weren't comfortable extending that far out and that's their right and it's my right to go to the market when we're not able to get our priorities lined up."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wouldn't divulge details, but it's been confirmed that both sides could get as high as four years on Backes' term. The Blues weren't comfortable going five years, and ultimately, that extra $6 million in AAV.

"We talked last night and again this morning," Armstrong said early Friday afternoon. "At the end of the day, the term was a concern for myself. David's a great player and he's been a great Blue and we wish him nothing but the best, but when you project out long-term, it was problematic for me personally to progress that far with players. There's analytical data that shows where players play at their peak and we wanted to try and stay within a window. We were going to invest to a certain level. But that's more of a personal thing than anything. 

"Ultimately David took a really good offer from Boston and we wish him nothing but the best and he'll be sorely missed."

Backes disputed the analytical theory, and all players in their right minds would when it comes to questioning their ability to perform when reaching a certain age. But with Backes and with the way he plays the game physically and the mileage he has on his body in 10 seasons, the Blues took their stance.

"Analytics and I don't ... I'm a numbers nerd from being an engineering student," Backes said. "We can have an analytics discussion maybe later, but maybe they do, maybe there's an actuary that comes up and says that at 36, you're not going to be able to move this fast and you can't ... you won't be worth anything. I don't know how they project that or it's if your contract was this much that what's the salary cap going to be in five years and what's a player ... I don't know what all goes into that. Just the analytics thing is a lot of numbers trying to roboticise and try to put everyone into a cookie-cutter type of mold and put everyone into a box. I just think there's quite a few guys One just died that was a legend that defied old mother time (Gordie Howe) and kept playing and played at a high level. A couple other guys, a guy that won a Cup this year is 39 coming back for another year. Another guy that's real productive is Shane Doan who scored almost 30 goals this year as a 39-year-old. That's not what I was looking for to get a contract at 39 by any means."

Brouwer bolted the Blues after one season after being acquired via trade with the Washington Capitals for popular T.J. Oshie, signing a four-year, $18 million contract with the Calgary Flames; he was instrumental in the Blues' run to the conference final and finished with eight goals and five assists in 20 playoff games after 18 goals and 39 points in 82 regular season games.

Unlike Backes, 32, who had an emotional investment in the city and franchise, Brouwer, 30, who said he'd welcome a return, moves on where he's building a summer home with his wife and kids and where his father live. Now he can call Calgary his permanent home.

"Al MacInnis, Marty Brodeur and I met with Troy's representatives and David's representatives in Buffalo and we made an offer (to Brouwer's agent Craig Oster) what we felt was a strong offer and it didn't get the deal done," Armstrong said. "We didn't really alter from that position. Troy, through his representative, was in a little bit different position than David. Troy really liked his time here and I think he wanted to remain here, but he didn't have the ties to the community. The offers were going to have to equal out for him to stay. We were a little bit shy of that offer so he decided to move on. I certainly respect and understand that because he's been here for a year. I think he really enjoyed his time here, but his roots weren't nearly as deep as David's."

Ott, acquired along with Ryan Miller in March of 2014, spent two-plus seasons with the Blues after coming to them from the Buffalo Sabres; he signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Detroit Red Wings.

The 33-year-old Ott scored three goals and had 17 points in 122 games with the Blues.

The 28-year-old, who had 84 goals and 114 assists in his first six NHL seasons in St. Louis, circles back to where it all began after stints with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks.

"Ever since the day that I got traded from St. Louis, I kind of always felt something in wanting to eventually (returning) ... and I didn't know the possibility would ever be there, but St. Louis is home to me," Perron said. "Being drafted there, grew up there a lot as a player and as a person.

"They called right away as soon as the (free agency) window opened."  

Perron, who has 141 goals in 570 career games, was traded to the Oilers in 2013 because of salary cap restraints for left wing Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft that the Blues used to pick Ivan Barbashev. 

Perron, 28, scored 28 goals with Oilers in 2013-14, but since, he's been traded near midseason in each of the past two seasons; from Edmonton to the Penguins in 2014-15, and from Pittsburgh to the Ducks in January 2016. Each time he's gotten off to a good start before being slowed by inconsistency or injury.

The left wing had 20 points in 28 games after the Ducks acquired him in a trade for forward Carl Hagelin before a separated shoulder forced him to miss the last three weeks of the regular season. However, he returned for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and had one goal and two assists in Anaheim's seven-game loss to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round.

"Like all players, David's matured," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "He was part of that young group that was thrust onto the scene, maybe a little bit before they were ready. They were asked to do a lot of the heavy lifting at an early age. Now, he's coming back as a much more mature player on and off the ice. I think we'll be the benefactors of that. 

"The other thing too is he's 28 years old and you saw how well he played after the trade to Anaheim. I think he had 20 points in 28 games. We view him as a player that can certainly play in the top nine. He can play left wing or right wing. It gives the coach some options. I know when I talked to him, he was very excited about the opportunity to come back to St. Louis. He still has a warm spot for the fans and the city. When you have players, they're looking to go elsewhere, but players that have been here, they're looking to come back. It was nice to hear the excitement in David's voice about returning to the city and the team that drafted him."

Allen, who will turn 26 on Aug. 7, had one year remaining on a two-year, $4.7 million contract he signed before last season. Allen set career highs in games (47), wins (26) and save percentage (.920) in 2015-16, helping St. Louis reach the Western Conference Final before losing to the San Jose Sharks in six games.

"It's a great feeling for me," Allen said. "I'm extremely happy. To be able to be drafted as a Blue and not be able to wear the blue note for a long time is a pretty great feeling.

"I've come a long ways since I was 17 years old and this is just the beginning. I feel like we've got a plan to follow and this is just part of that." 

Allen will be the Blues starter in goal for 2016-17. St. Louis traded goalie Brian Elliott, who split time with Allen last season, to the Calgary Flames last week for a second-round pick (No. 35) in the 2016 NHL Draft. Allen has won 57 of his 99 career NHL games and has a .915 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against average.

"When you get that call from management, and they tell you, 'This is what we want,' it's a pretty good feeling on my part," Allen said. "The agents do their thing with Doug and move to common ground. I felt it was a good deal for both of us. I think they're real happy and so am I."

The trade for Elliott at the NHL Draft expedited the process of signing Allen long-term, which is something Armstrong wanted done quickly.

"These were worked in unison with each other and we were very comfortable and we knew that we were going to be able to get Jake done," Armstrong said. "... Internally, we feel Jake is the guy. I talked extensively to (goalie coach) Jim Corsi and (assistant GM) Marty Brodeur about it. Everybody was feeling it's Jake's team now, it's Jake's turn and it made it easier. We really feel that Jake is going to be a real good player and he wants the ball and he's got it now. You're sort of seeing this with other organizations too that are looking to the younger goalies to grab hold of it. We're no different."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron will don the Bluenote again after signing a
two-year contract on Friday.

Hutton, 30, spent the past three seasons with the Nashville Predators. Hutton was 7-5-4 with a 2.33 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and two shutouts in 17 games (15 starts) with Nashville last season.

In 76 career games with the Predators and Chicago Blackhawks, Hutton is 33-24-12 with a 2.56 goals-against average, .910 save percentage and four shutouts.

"I relied heavily on Jimmy and Marty's input there," Armstrong said. "We put a list of goaltenders out there and he was at the top of our list. It was he and one other guy who were sort of 1 and 1A. He got in there a couple years ago when (Pekka) Rinne got hurt and had a really good run with Nashville. We know people that play in Nashville and we talked to them about him. A lot like Brian Elliott, a great teammate. Someone that is looking to push Jake but also understands that he's a mentor and a solid partner. There's a lot of positives with bringing him in. It just seems like the proper guy that has the experience that Jake can lean on."

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blues, Brodziak reach agreement on two-year contract

Veteran center instrumental to fourth line, agreed to 
$1.9 million extension, could have become UFA Friday

ST. LOUIS -- Kyle Brodziak initially signed with the Blues because of what he called a "legitimate chance."

That legitimate chance to win is always a player's goal --- the money doesn't hurt either -- but in the case of Brodziak, he came off a contract that paid him $3 million in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons with the Minnesota Wild before reaching a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Blues.

It's safe to say money wasn't a determining factor then and it wasn't the case again after the veteran 32-year-old center signed a two-year, $1.9 million extension on Monday afternoon, a $50,000 raise on average annual value per season.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Kyle Brodziak reacts after scoring a shorthanded goal against San Jose in
Game 4 of the conference final. He resigned with the Blues Monday.

Brodziak was a mainstay on the Blues' fourth line and was an instrumental penalty killer; he played 76 regular season games last season and scored seven goals and added four assists, including three shorthanded tallies and four game-winning goals.

Brodziak helped lead the Blues to the Western Conference Final, and in 20 postseason games, he had two goals, including a shorthanded one in Game 4 of the conference final against San Jose. 

"Coming into the year, it was exciting for me because I felt like we had a legitimate chance," Brodziak said recently. "To be a part of it was exciting and it was fun. We obviously fell a little bit short, but the whole playoff run just felt real. It felt like we were going to do it the whole time, and that's what makes it so hard to accept that it's over. But yeah, it was a lot of fun and I'm grateful that 'Army' (Blues general manager Doug Armstrong) gave me the chance to come here and be a part of it."

Which made it pretty easy for Brodziak to commit to the Blues again.

"Yeah, for sure. I've never had a chance to play this late in the year and have an opportunity like that," Brodziak said. "It was a lot of fun."

Brodziak played mainly with guys like Scottie Upshall, who the Blues resigned to a one-year, $900,000 contract recently, Ryan Reaves, Steve Ott and at times, Dmitrij Jaskin.

"I felt like it was a good fit," Brodziak said. "We knew what was kind of expected from me and it was fun. It was fun to be a part of a group that you really believe that when you put all the work in, you get a chance for it all to pay off and be successful. It was fun.

"... It's a good group of guys where everyone gets along, but that's only really part of it, I think. Obviously we have a pretty good, skilled team, goalies, d-men, forwards, just depth throughout the whole lineup. But really when you have a group that poured it all into it and committed, the commitment to do unselfish things and put in the work, too, I think that's a big thing that separated our team. We had a lot of guys that would have to do a lot of extra things to make the group go farther. It's another commitment level you have to get to and everyone was on board. You can see the results, not the end result, but potential end result when everybody's on board together."

A veteran of 11 seasons, Brodziak has 105 goals and 134 assists with the Edmonton Oilers, Wild and Blues.

With Brodziak's signing, the Blues have 18 players under contract and roughly $15.2 million in cap space available. They still have to sign potential restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz and there's still the pending outcomes to potential unrestricted free agents David Backes and Troy Brouwer, among others.

Forward Vladimir Sobotka, who the Blues are assuming will return next season after spending the past two seasons in the KHL, will do so at the cap hit of $2.7 million and would bring the remaining cap space available to $12.5 million.

* NOTES -- The Blues announced they made qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents Schwartz, F Magnus Paajarvi, G Anders Nilsson, F Ty Rattie, G Jordan Binnington, F Jordan Caron, G Pheonix Copley and F Jacob Doty.

By making qualifying offers by the 4 p.m. (CT) deadline, the Blues retain negotiating rights with those players when free agency opens Friday and prevents those players from becoming UFA's.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Blues go center-heavy in final day of draft

Team selects former first-rounder Bleackley in 
fifth round; Shattenkirk remains a Blue for time being

ST. LOUIS -- All the hubbub about potential big-name trades at the 2016 NHL Draft came and went without a lot of fanfare.

The Blues did trade goalie Brian Elliott to Calgary on Friday but have yet to make a move -- if they even intend to -- with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who has received much attention as a player potentially on the move.

That may happen yet but it didn't at the draft.
(Red Deer Rebels photo)
Former first-round pick Conner Bleackley re-entered the draft this weekend
and was chosen by the Blues in the fifth round.

So the Blues concluded the draft Saturday at First Niagara Center in Buffalo with six picks, including one acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks of all teams, getting one of the Hawks' fifth round picks (No. 144) for their fifth-rounder in 2017. 

The Blues used that pick to select former first-rounder Conner Bleackley, who played the past five seasons with Red Deer of the Western Hockey League.

Bleackley is an intriguing proposition considering he was Colorado's first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in 2014 but was part of a trade last season that sent the 6-foot, 197-pound center to Arizona. But since the Coyotes didn't sign Bleackley to an entry-level contract by June 1, he was allowed to re-enter the draft and the Blues took a flyer on Bleackley, who will turn 20 on July 2. The Coyotes received a supplemental second-round pick.

Bleackley missed the 2016 WHL playoffs after a freak injury the final regular season game in which he had tendons severed in his wrist by an accidental cut by a skate blade; he missed six weeks earlier in the season with a broken left kneecap and finished with 13 goals and 33 assists in 55 games after 56 goals and 71 assists the previous two seasons with the Rebels.

"We tried to get Bleackley, who's almost like a first-round pick in the fifth when we didn't have anything," Blues director of amateur scouting Bill Armstrong said. "We've got some background and we've got some belief in him. He's been through a lot. This kid can play."

The Blues are expected to sign Bleackley to an entry-level contract and immediately insert him to the American Hockey League and the Chicago Wolves.

The Blues, who selected center Tage Thompson with their first-round pick on Friday (26th overall after trading up from No. 28 with Washington), selected six centers in all of their eight picks, including five on Saturday.

They grabbed 6-0, 175-pound center Jordan Kyrou with their second-round pick (No. 35). 

Kyrou, 18, played with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League last season (where Steven Stamkos played his junior hockey) and finished with 17 goals and 51 points in 65 regular season games. Kyrou was part of Canada’s gold medal team at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial, where he had two goals and an assist in five games. He also represented Canada at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship and had five goals and three assists in seven games, and skated for Canada (White) at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. 

"Sitting there waiting for your name to be called, it's unbelievable," Kyrou told reporters. "... To be picked by such a great organization, I'm really excited. 

"... Just sitting there not really knowing what to expect, then you hear your name get called, it's a great feeling." 

In the third round, the Blues took their first and only goalie, going with 6-3, 206-pound Evan Fitzpatrick, who won 18 games with Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

In 54 games, the 18-year-old Fitzpatrick had a 3.42 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.

The Blues' fourth round pick produced another center. This time, it was 6-0, 200-pound Tanner Kaspick, who had 13 goals and 31 points in 53 games with Brandon of the WHL.

Kaspick, 18, was also part of the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament with Kyrou; he had a goal and an assist in five games.

With the first of their two fifth-round picks, the Blues took center Nolan Stevens, who skated with Northeastern University last year. It was a pick acquired when the Blues traded defenseman Jordan Leopold to Columbus in 2015.

Stevens, who turns 20 July 22, is the son of Los Angeles Kings associate coach John Stevens; he had 20 goals and 22 assists in 41 games last season.

The Blues had no sixth-round picks, but had two in the seven round, including two of the final three picks of the draft.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues moved up to the 26th pick to take Connecticut's Tage Thompson
with their first round pick on Friday at the 2016 NHL Draft.

With pick No. 209, the Blues went center again with Danish-born Nikolaj Krag Christensen, who is 6-3 and 201 pounds. Christensen, 17, finished last season with Rodovre of Denmark first league.

And with a pick acquired two seasons ago along with defenseman Robert Bortuzzo that yielded Ian Cole, the Blues grabbed 18-year-old left wing Filip Helt, who is 6-1, 176-pounds.

Helt played seven games with Litvinov Jr. of the Czech Republic junior league last season and had three assists.

"I think we tried to squeeze the most out of the draft," Armstrong said. "Every draft's different. This one was a little thin in some areas. ... We were working as hard as we could at every moment."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Blues trade Elliott to Flames for picks, select Thompson in first round

Deal paves way for Allen to take reigns as No. 1 goalie; 
source indicated Shattenkirk trade talk to Edmonton surrounds three forwards 

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues made a trade at the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, sending goalie Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames for the 35th pick in this draft and a conditional 2018 third-round pick.

The condition is contingent on the Flames resigning Elliott, who has one year at $2.5 million AAV ($2.7 million in salary) remaining on his current contract.

Elliott, 31, leaves the Blues as the all-time leader in shutouts (25), doing it in five seasons.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott leaves St. Louis after five seasons as the franchise leader in
shutouts with 26. He was traded to the Calgary Flames for picks on Friday.

He was 23-8-6 in 42 regular season games with a 2.07 goals-against average and NHL-leading .930 save percentage this past season, then went 9-9 with a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage in helping lead the Blues to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.

In five seasons with the Blues, Elliott was 104-46-16 with a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in 181 regular season games. 

The move signifies the Blues, who initially were planning on a 1-2 punch with Elliott and Jake Allen, are ready to hand the keys over to Allen, who also has one year remaining on his contract.

"I never really saw it coming from talks at the end of the year," Allen said by phone. "It seemed like this was the way they were going to go into next season, but things can change in a hurry in this business. They talked as a management and these decisions just don't happen in the blink of an eye. Something changed there, but I feel like I'm ready. I feel I've gotten better every year that I've played since I turned pro at 20 years old. I feel like I've gotten better each year. I feel like this is going to be a real good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do and I'm looking forward to it.

"It's unfortunately the nature of our business and it's sad for me to see (Elliott) go. I couldn't ask for a better person and better partner to be with for the first couple years of my NHL career. I wish him the most success in Calgary. I know he'll have a lot of success there. He's a great goalie and they're getting one coming their way."

Elliott is 165-99-32 in 323 NHL regular season games for the Blues, Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche with a 2.40 GAA and .914 save percentage with 34 career shutouts. He was 14-17 in 33 postseason games with a 2.32 GAA and .917 save percentage.

Allen said he'll miss his friend.

"It's just the fact you know you had someone you're comfortable with right by your side night in, night out," Allen said. "Even if you have an off-night, you have a guy that can come in and clean up the mess and help you out and give your team a chance. But whatever happens, the other goaltender that's going to be there, with me this year, I'm sure the Blues and Doug (Armstrong) will do a good job in finding another guy that's very capable of stepping in and playing games and playing important minutes. You still need both goalies. It's not a one-man show. You need both goalies to have success in this league."

Allen, the 34th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, will enter his fourth season at the start of 2016-17. He's 57-26-7 with a 2.34 GAA and .915 save percentage with 11 career shutouts after coming off a career-high 26 victories when he was 26-15-3 with a 2.35 GAA and career-high .920 save percentage with six shutouts in 47 games.

Allen, who played limited games because of a pair of lower-body injuries that forced him to miss 20 games, now gets the road paved for him as the clear-cut No. 1.

"That's what you play for. You want to be the guy," Allen said. "You want to be the guy even if you lose 10-0 one night and they put you right back in the next night and they have all the confidence and faith in you. I think that's when I play my best. I play my best hockey when I play and I know I'm the guy. I'm looking forward to that challenge. It's not going to be easy. There's still going to be bumps in the road, but I feel the work I've put in throughout my career, not just in the NHL but since I strapped on the pads, it's going to pay off. Hopefully I have a good summer this year and I come into training camp on a positive and exciting note.

"I want to be part of the Blues for a long time. That's my objective, my goal since I was drafted. I think I'm on the right foot right now. I think we have a great core and have the potential to be real good for a long time. Not many teams can say that. We're fortunate to have that."

The Blues and Elliott's new team, the Flames, will get acclimated early in the season. St. Louis plays at Calgary on Oct. 22 and the return matchup is three days later in St. Louis on Oct. 25.

"It'll be a little weird, but it'll be fun," Allen said. "You've got to have fun in this game. If you don't, something's wrong. There's going to be some fun competition. Maybe we'll have a little wager on the line on the side. I think it'll be enjoyable to play him a couple times a year in Calgary and in St. Louis."

The Blues will now search for a backup goalie and can turn back to restricted free agent Anders Nilsson to be Allen's backup or Armstrong can turn to the free agent market.

There was plenty of scuttlebutt regarding trades heading into the first day of the draft, and Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was at the top of the table for players with the potential to be traded. 

Shattenkirk, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, has been rumored to be on the list of a number of teams, but a source close to the Blues said that one of the teams the Blues have spoken with are the Edmonton Oilers and that the Oilers, who are on the hunt for a top-pair defenseman, were said to be offering center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft.

However, the source said that the Blues asking price is one of either left wing Taylor Hall, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, or right wing Jordan Eberle, the 22nd pick in 2008.

As for the draft, the Blues, who were originally positioned to pick 28th in the first round, moved up two spots to No. 26 to select 6-foot-5, 185-pound center Tage Thompson, who played his freshman year last season at the University of Connecticut.

Thompson scored 14 goals and added 18 assists in 36 games for UConn after playing for the USA U-18 developmental team in 2014-15.

Thompson is the son of Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who was an assistant for the Peoria Rivermen, once the American Hockey League affiliate of the Blues.

Thompson was part of a record 12 American-born players selected in the first round.

"It's pretty exciting getting drafted and being a part of a trend of US Hockey," Thompson said on NBCSN. "It's something pretty special."

Thompson said he models his game of that of Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry.

"I think I'm a big, skilled power forward," Thompson said. "I have a knack for making plays; I've got a pretty good shot. I think those are some of the things I'm going to bring to the table."

From a local perspective, the St. Louis AAA Blues stole the show in the first round with five -- FIVE -- players selected.

Left wing Matthew Tkachuk, the 6-1, 202-pound son of former Blue Keith Tkachuk and one of Matthew's coaches with the AAA Blues, was selected sixth by the Calgary Flames after helping lead the London Knights to the Ontario Hockey League championship. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues are said to be shopping Kevin Shattenkirk and talks have 
centered around the Edmonton Oilers, according to a source.

Right behind Tkachuk was center Clayton Keller to the Arizona Coyotes. Keller, who is 5-10, 168, spent last season with the US U-18 team. 

Logan Brown, son of former Blue Jeff Brown who coached along with Keith Tkachuk with the AAA Blues, was picked at No. 11 by the Ottawa Senators, who traded up to get the big 6-6, 208 pound center who played for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. 

The Minnesota Wild grabbed 5-11, 193-pound center Luke Kunin with the 15th pick. Kunin had 19 goals and 32 points in 34 games with the University of Wisconsin.

And finally, center Trent Frederic, who is 6-2 and 203 pounds, went at No. 29 to the Boston Bruins after playing for the US U-18 team a season ago.

The Toronto Maple Leafs took center Auston Matthews with the first pick.