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

By LOU KORAC
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

By LOU KORAC
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 

By LOU KORAC
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. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Blues bring Upshall back for one year

Veteran winger will earn $900,000 on a one-way contract

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Impressed with his contributions from the moment he came on board on a professional tryout last season, the Blues decided they want to have Scottie Upshall on board from the get-go after signing the veteran forward to a one-year contract on Wednesday morning.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Scottie Upshall celebrates after scoring a goal against 
Chicago in the playoffs this past season.

Upshall and the Blues agreed to a one-way, $900,000 contract, up from the $700,000 two-way contract he signed coming out of camp last season.

The 32-year-old Fort McMurray, Alberta native, who could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1, played in 70 regular season and 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Blues last season.

In the regular season as a predominantly fourth-line winger, Upshall had six goals and eight assists and added one goal and two assisst despite playing through an injury sustained late in the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Upshall has 121 goals and 127 assists in 623 NHL games.

With Upshall's signing, the Blues have just a shade under $13.7 million under the new salary cap ceiling that was established by the NHL on Tuesday, set at $73 million, which is up from the $71.4 million last season.

The Blues are still trying to negotiate a long-term contract for pending restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz and are still in the negotiating window leading up to July 1 for pending unrestricted free agents David Backes and Troy Brouwer, among others.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2016-17 ST. LOUIS BLUES SCHEDULE

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The NHL released its full 2016-17 regular season schedule on Tuesday, including that of the Blues, who open on the night the league opens, Oct. 12 at the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blues play 12 sets of back-to-back games, including opening the season at Chicago and the home opener, Oct. 13 against the Minnesota Wild and new coach Bruce Boudreau. St. Louis will close the season April 8 at Carolina and at home against Colorado April 9, which is also the final day of the regular season for the entire league.

Some other highlights include a season-long six-game homestand Dec. 28-Jan. 10, which includes the 2017 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic Jan. 2 against the Blackhawks at Busch Stadium, with an expected puck drop of noon.

The Blues' longest road trips include a pair of five games, one Feb. Feb. 6-15 and the other March 13-21.

The San Jose Sharks, who eliminated the Blues in the Western Conference Final, make their first and only visit to St. Louis Nov. 17, and the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins make their only visit to Scottrade Center Jan. 24.

The busiest home months, each containing eight games, will be November and December, and the Blues will play 10 of 15 March games on the road, which isn't a surprise with the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament taking up residence for a four-day stretch at Scottrade Center in March.

The Blues will play their final regular season game at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Feb. 15 and make their first trip to Edmonton's new home, Rogers Place, on Oct. 20.

There are two sets of back-to-back games against the Calgary Flames (Oct. 22-25) and Arizona Coyotes (March 27-29); the Blues in fact play Arizona all three meetings in a 12-day stretch in March (18-29).

The bye break, a first of its kind in the league, for the Blues is after they play on Feb. 20. They'll have five days off before playing again on the 26th.

Here is the Blues' complete preseason and regular season schedule:

PRESEASON
SEPTEMBER
* 25 -- COLUMBUS, noon
* 25 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
26 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
30 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
OCTOBER
1 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
3 -- at Washington, 6 p.m.
5 -- WASHINGTON (at Kansas City), 7 p.m.
8 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
* -- split squad games
REGULAR SEASON
12 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
13 -- MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
15 -- N.Y. RANGERS, 7 p.m.
18 -- at Vancouver, 9 p.m.
20 -- at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
22 -- at Calgary, 9 p.m.
25 -- CALGARY, 7 p.m.
27 -- DETROIT, 7 p.m.
29 -- LOS ANGELES, 7 p.m.
NOVEMBER
1 -- at N.Y. Rangers, 6 p.m.
3 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
5 -- COLUMBUS, 6 p.m.
6 -- COLORADO, 4 p.m.
9 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
10 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
12 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
15 -- BUFFALO, 7 p.m.
17 -- SAN JOSE, 7 p.m.
19 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
22 -- at Boston, 6 p.m.
23 -- at Washington, 6 p.m.
26 -- MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
28 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
DECEMBER
1 -- TAMPA BAY, 7 p.m.
3 -- WINNIPEG, 6 p.m.
6 -- MONTREAL, 7 p.m.
8 -- at N.Y. Islanders, 6 p.m.
9 -- at New Jersey, 6:30 p.m.
11 -- at Minnesota, 5 p.m.
13 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
15 -- NEW JERSEY, 7 p.m.
17 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
19 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
20 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
22 -- at Tampa Bay, 6:30 p.m.
28 -- PHILADELPHIA, 7 p.m.
30 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
JANUARY
2 -- CHICAGO, noon
5 -- CAROLINA, 7 p.m.
7 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
10 -- BOSTON, 7 p.m.
12 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
14 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
15 -- at Anaheim, 8 p.m.
17 -- OTTAWA, 7 p.m.
19 -- WASHINGTON, 7 p.m.
21 -- at Winnipeg, 2 p.m.
24 -- at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
26 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
31 -- WINNIPEG, 7 p.m.
FEBRUARY
2 -- TORONTO, 7 p.m.
4 -- PITTSBURGH, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
7 -- at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m.
9 -- at Toronto, 6:30 p.m.
11 -- at Montreal, 6 p.m.
15 -- at Detroit, 7 p.m.
16 -- VANCOUVER, 7 p.m.
18 -- at Buffalo, noon
20 -- FLORIDA, 7 p.m.
26 -- at Chicago, 6:30 p.m.
28 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
MARCH
3 -- at Winnipeg, 7 p.m.
5 -- at Colorado, 7 p.m.
7 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
10 -- ANAHEIM, 7 p.m.
11 -- N.Y. ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
13 -- at Los Angeles, 9 p.m.
15 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.
16 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
18 -- at Arizona, 8 p.m.
21 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m.
25 -- CALGARY, 6 p.m.
27 -- ARIZONA, 7 p.m.
29 -- at Arizona, 9:30 p.m.
31 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m.
APRIL 
2 -- NASHVILLE, 5 p.m.
4 -- WINNIPEG, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Florida, 6:30 p.m.
8 -- at Carolina, 6 p.m.
9 -- COLORADO, 5 p.m.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Blues, Jaskin agree to two-year extension

Winger will earn $1 million annually on one-way 
contract; team on verge of extending agreement with Wolves

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues made their first offseason move by signing winger Dmitrij Jaskin to a two-year contract extension that will pay him $1 million each season.

Jaskin, 23, was drafted by the Blues in the second round in 2011 and received a one-way contract, meaning he will be paid $1 million whether in the NHL or in the American Hockey League.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Dmitrij Jaskin (23) signed a two-year extension Thursday with the Blues.

Jaskin, who could have been a restricted free agent July 1, is coming off a one-year contract that paid him $775,000.

"It’s great to be part of a group like this," Jaskin said on the team website. "It's great to have the opportunity to be part of this team. To get (to) the (Western) Conference Final, it’s a big motivation. You want to get there again and in (these) two years, I hope we'll get even further. I'm really excited for next season."

Jaskin finished with just four regular season goals in 65 games this past season after a 13-goal performance in 54 games in 2014-15, his first full season. He has appeared in 139 career NHL games and has 18 goals and 15 assists.

Jaskin scored a huge postseason goal -- his first in the NHL -- in Game 5 of the conference semifinals against the Dallas Stars, a series the Blues went on to win in seven games. It was Jaskin's first action in the postseason and had two points in six games.

Jaskin will represent the Blues and the Czech Republic at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in September, which will play out in Toronto. 

Jaskin's signing means the Blues have just Jaden Schwartz, Magnus Paajarvi and Anders Nilsson as RFA's remaining on the main roster. Ty Rattie headlines the names of players in the minors that can become RFA's on July 1.

* Blues, Wolves close to announcing deal -- The Blues and their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, have agreed in principle on a one-year contract to remain affiliates, according to a source, and a contract could be announced at any time.

The teams have been together the past three seasons, since the Blues folded ceased operations with their AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, in 2013. The Wolves are an independent AHL team and, according to the same source, will be looking elsewhere in 2017-18, perhaps the new NHL franchise in Las Vegas when they begin playing in the NHL.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- He's one of the up-and-coming prolific scorers in the NHL, one who led the Blues during the regular season (40 goals) and produced regularly in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in helping the Blues defeat the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars.

Vladimir Tarasenko, 24, the team's highest paid player who received a franchise-record eight-year, $60 million contract in the summer of 2015, was bottled up in the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks until the waning minutes of Game 6 when he scored twice in a game that had already sealed the Blues' fate.

He finished the playoffs tied with Robby Fabbri for the team lead in points (15) in 20 games and helped the Blues to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001 and drew attention by not speaking to reporters the day players cleaned out their lockers. 
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko

But Tarasenko, before heading off for the summer with his family, including a newborn son, came in and spoke to a large media throng on the day the Blues announced the one-year extension for coach Ken Hitchcock and addressed everything from the playoffs, the disappointment of losing, being held in check, his relationship with the organization and everything in between in the puristic of Russian accents and no help from an interpreter:

A brief opening statement:
I just wanted to say (during Saturday locker cleanout day), I wasn't ready to talk. I was too frustrated, too upset, too pissed off about our loss. I just don't want to give you guys hard time to talk with me because I was so mad. I'm ready to talk now.

How would you describe your feelings, especially after the last round of the playoffs?
Sad probably. More days you don't play hockey, the more you recognize how close you were to Stanley Cup Final. It's a bad experience, but it's still an experience for us. A lot of guys from our team never been there, never been this far in the playoffs. It's good to have this experience in your life because you know now what it takes to go this deep and gives you a chance to prepare better and go deeper next time.

What did you find different personally about the third round after having so much success in the first two rounds?
I can't tell you team struggled offensively. We had a couple good games when we score a lot of goals. Every team play different. San Jose play a really good round. Like I said, it's really bad experience for us, but at same time, it's good experience. We know what we need to change to play better next time.

Your thoughts on continuing forward with Hitchcock as coach:
Except that we didn't win Cup last four years, it was really good four years for our team, I think. It's all because of (the way) our team has played and coaches have coached. We have a great coach, we have great coaches for these four years. Ken was our head coach and I think every guy enjoyed to work with him. He has a lot of experience and he give it to us. It doesn't have a price. You need to just talk with him a couple times and you can find out so many new stuff. He helped us a lot and we're looking forward for next successful year.

What was biggest thing you learned about going this deep into the playoffs?
It's two rounds ... like we played 14 games and round three is still fast. You think people's going to be tired but everybody ... like every morning you wake up, you don't even feel tired because you so pumped up about next game. You're not pressured and help other players play against you. You can't show frustration. You need to focus on every shift as just try to help your team as much as you can. It doesn't matter what it takes, score a goal, don't score a goal, whatever. Everybody have a role. So if you can't help with scoring goals, you need to help with something else, help with the checking, with the defensive side or whatever. I think most important part for me in the playoffs, every player needs to take what coach tells him to do. So it can be different thing than what you usually not do, but if you need to do this to give the team a win, you need to do this.

In what ways does Hitchcock make you an even better player than you could be?
It's completely different country, first of all, completely different league, different hockey, different everything. He help me not only with stuff on the ice, he help me off ice too. He talk with me a lot and he give a lot of stuff about NHL and about Olympics and now World Cup. He's been there and it's really important for me to have this information because it help me a lot.

Can you respond and address to report in Canada that there was a problem between you and the organization?
Me and who?

You and the coach; you and the organization; that's what it said, that there was a problem:
What is organization? Like everybody else?

The Blues and you:
It's never been even talking about it. Like, we have really good relationships and (laughs) ... media just (likes) to talk. They have to do little stuff why it's happen. They start to talking about it big. They talking about problem between me and Blues. Now it's never been a problem. If there is going to be problems, I would not sign for eight years. 

Have you ever experienced a goal scoring drought like that where it's so difficult to generate offense for you personally, never seeing you go through something like that since you've gotten here? How difficult was that for you to deal with personally throughout the series?
I don't tell I was frustrated. Like of course I was little bit mad. For example, I don't score Game 1 and we (won). I don't score Game 2 and we (lost). Then we lost Game 3 and then we won Game 4. Now it's no time to frustration. If you don't score and your team win, it's mean like everybody help. So it's been a help, too, but now I have a lot of time to think about my game and look in the shifts and find out what's wrong. But when your team winning, you don't even think about your points. It's nothing better than when you come in locker room after hard game, even if you score or not score and you see these happy faces around you, you know it's your friends and they are really happy. You can't be thinking about something else. 

What did the Sharks do to take you out?
I need time to take a look at shifts, but my feeling is they play really tight and they check so hard. Just experience. It was frustrated for me. I wish I can do better. I supposed to do better and everyone can do better. Now we have time to reorganize and bring our experience for a long run next year.

Some of the players talked about what they need to do this summer to get to that next level. What do you need to do, whether training, conditioning to improve yourself for next season?
I think first of all, I need vacation (smiles). Then I'm go to my hometown and see my parents and grandparents and them (to see) their grandson, our son. It gives you even more when you practice in the gym every day but this emotions give you bump. I'm going to start doing usually what I do every summer, but even more. I have some areas in my game what I want to improve, so I have stuff to work on. It's really good feeling before summer when you know what you working on and then you can see results after. I'm just looking forward for really hard-working summer and looking forward for playing better next year.

Can you appreciate what you mean to this community, to this team and with your contract and the responsibilities that go far beyond the ice?
What do you mean.

Do you get a sense that you are the face of this organization, that it means more than just scoring goals? Does it to you or does it not?
I always want to be not only the guy who just score goals and everything else is like not really good. I always try to be, like, not about player but complete guy in life. Even here, you go somewhere. Even after we lost, you go grocery store and you know you can feel people's not mad on you. They told you it's unbelievable year and they support you. And then you recognize how important all the guys and myself are for this city, for these fans. You just want to play better next time and to not embarrass them anymore. I know what are you asking me. I can feel it, but I'm not thinking about it because if you start thinking, then it's going to bother you. This is extra pressure. You just need to go on ice and do your stuff, be nice with you guys, the media guys ... 

Do you regret not speaking when everybody else spoke?
You know, what's mean regret?

Do you feel bad for not speaking?
I would feel (not) more better if I go in and speak and say something wrong because of my, I don't know how to say it, because of my madness and all this frustration after playoffs. So like I said before guys, if I have chance to wait a little bit and put my mind together and make a good talk with you, a good conversation. I would like to do more than I go in and say something bad and then you talk about it for next three months. 

You were only two games away from the final. How excited are you about the future and where this team is headed?
I think it give us more (pride) in ourselves and now we know we can go this deep. We know we can (beat) good teams. It's tough now because everywhere it's Penguins-Sharks pictures in Stanley Cup Final and now I feel even more how close we are it was to Stanley Cup Final and it just give you more expectations from the team next year and we just want to be there every year, even deeper. And we want to win the Cup. That's what we are playing for.