Thursday, June 30, 2011

Free agency period set to begin Friday

Blues likely more inclined to target mid-range players

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A year ago at this time, when big contracts were unveiled to some of the big names that entered unrestricted free agency, the Blues weren't totally left in the dark, but they weren‘t shelling out offers left and right either.

In 2010, the big names that received big-dollar and long-term contracts were blue liners. In the meantime, the Blues were busy taking care of their own. Alex Steen and Vladimir Sobotka re-signed contracts, but that would be the extent of it for the Blues and free agency frenzy.

With the opening of the 2011 free agent bonanza set to begin Friday at 11 a.m. (St. Louis time), the Blues in all probability will be limited bystanders as the free agent crop begins to fall like dominoes, and as was the case a year ago, don't expect Blues general manager Doug Armstrong to whip out Dave Checketts' checkbook and start free-wheeling.

In other words, don't expect any Brad Richards splashes from the Blues when the doors open for business Friday morning.

"We're looking to improve our team, but in a fashion that's responsible to the organization," Armstrong said. "We'll have the flexibility to add players, but we have to be cautious. We'll start with the group that's on our list."

Armstrong and the Blues won't look to make up the landscape of their team during free agency. Consider them to be filling the gaps.

"You look to fill your holes," Armstrong said. "... You look at trying to improve your team and you use whatever assets you have available to try and improve it. What we're finding out now is that teams are making their decisions on their free agents a little bit like we did with David Backes much earlier and you lock those guys up.

"The free agent pool seems to be diluted to what it was even 72 hours ago. The teams are making their decisions on their players, signing them and not letting them get to free agency. I read a quote today from (Toronto assistant GM) Dave Nonis that said, 'Free agency is a time to augment your team, not make your team.' I would have to 100 percent agree with that. Now's the time to add to what you have. If you're trying to create your team on July 1st, I think that's a very slippery slope."

While the Blues won't be in the market for any marquee-named players, they're more likely interested in a forward of the third-line mix, possibly a veteran left-handed defenseman and a backup goalie.

"There are some very good players at each position, but not the depth in the past years," Armstrong said. "There are players that can come in and fill important roles for a team. They might not be the marquee names, but they're important players who can help you be successful."

With the Blues' ownership situation currently still up in the air, the Blues aren't going to come nearly close to the salary cap maximum of $64.3 million. They'll be much closer to the cap floor, which is $48.3 million. The Blues will likely be on the lower end of the $50-55 million range.

Some interesting names that could help the Blues are Colorado winger Tomas Fleischmann, Carolina winger Erik Cole, Chicago goalie Marty Turco, Avs netminders Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott, Columbus winger Scottie Upshall, Jackets defenseman Jan Hejda, Dallas winger Jamie Langenbrunner, Detroit winger Patrick Eaves, Minnesota goalie Josh Harding, Nashville winger Joel Ward, Wild center Andrew Brunette, Montreal defenseman Brent Sopel, Nashville defenseman Shane O'Brien, Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy and Maxime Talbot, Tampa Bay winger Sean Bergenheim and Philadelphia winger Ville Leino.

"We're looking to improve our team, but in a fashion that's responsible to the organization," Armstrong said. "We'll have the flexibility to add players, but we have to be cautious. We'll start with the group that's on our list."

Otherwise, the Blues will once again look from within to make the leap forward.

"We're going to have to do that. That's our mandate," Armstrong said. "I believe that we have to use this season to find out are we building with the right pieces. Do we have the right core pieces here to take this organization to the next level? The only way you find that out is you put them on the ice in those situations and you see how they respond.

"I was hoping quite honestly this was going to happen last year, but we had two major injuries (to David Perron and T.J. Oshie) that happened in hockey and that's just the way life is. I'm not sure where they fit in with the hierarchy of being a top echelon team. We need to find that out so we need to know what guys we move forward with or do we have to alter a few players to take a different approach."

The Blues only made one deal that the draft, acquiring 21-year-old Russian Evgeny Grachev from the New York Rangers for a third-round pick. Armstrong says Grachev, who is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, will have a chance to compete for a roster spot.

"He's a player that we think can come in and compete for an opening-night spot," Armstrong said. "He's got pro experience now, he's got size, he's got raw attributes. Now he has to put that together and impress the coaches. But he'll be given every opportunity."

* Blues, D'Agostini still talking -- While there is no new news to report on impending unrestricted free agent Matt D'Agostini, Armstrong indicated that the sides continue to talk.
D'Agostini, 24, could become a UFA Friday at 11 a.m. (St. Louis time) if a deal isn't reached before then.

"We're still having dialogue over the last 48 hours with Matt D'Agostini," Armstrong said. "If we can push that ahead, then we'll have two players (Ben Bishop and Ryan Reaves) that are restricted that I'm pretty comfortable (and) I know what their pay scale is going to be."

* Cracknell signs -- The Blues have also reportedly come to an agreement on a one-year contract with forward Adam Cracknell. Cracknell received a two-way deal that will pay him an NHL salary of $575,000 and a $90,000 AHL salary, according to

Cracknell played in 24 games with the Blues a season ago and scored three goals and added another four assists.

* Perron update -- Armstrong also mentioned the possibility of David Perron being ready for opening night this season. But the Blues' winger, who has done very little hockey-related activities since suffering a concussion from San Jose's Joe Thornton, still has not resumed any workout-related activities.

"We're hopeful. He's still not to the part where he's doing any off-ice training yet, but every day, there seems to be a positive sign that he's getting a little bit better, a little bit stronger," Armstrong said of Perron. "We were hoping to have everything resolved on that issue on July 1st. That's not going to happen. He's not going to work out tomorrow. I think he's closer than further. I would say we're cautiously optimistic that he's going to be available for the start of the season."

Blues, Oshie come to terms on one-year contract

Forward agrees to $2.35 miilion deal, would have been restricted free agent Friday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Twenty-four hours away from hitting the free agent market, the Blues and T.J. Oshie put those anxious moments to rest Thursday.

The Blues signed Oshie to a one-year, $2.35 million contract, thus avoiding salary arbitration with the 24-year-old who would have been a restricted free agent and susceptible to offer sheets.

"It feels great. I couldn't be happier. Glad to be back in St. Louis," Oshie said Thursday from St. Louis Mills. "I always knew that was going to be the end result. (We had to) just come to a number. I'm very excited. Now I can just focus on working out."
T.J. Oshie avoids free agency, signs a one-year contract with Blues.

The one-year deal represents a contract that is suitable for both parties, according to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. The monetary figure represents a number higher than the ones the Blues gave to David Perron ($1.8 million) and Patrik Berglund ($2.25 million) in the first years after their entry-level deals expired. But Perron and Berglund each received two-year contracts.

Oshie, the Blues' top pick in 2005, played in 49 games this past season and recorded 34 points on 12 goals, 22 assists. It's going to be an important year to prove his value and worth that could potentially parlay into a long-term deal down the road.

"I think coming off the injury, it's important that T.J. comes in and establishes himself with a healthy season and contribute at a 75-plus game mark and then we'll move on to looking at a longer-term deal after that," Armstrong said. "It gives him obviously some security on a one-year deal. The compensation is fair, I think, for both sides, but it allows him to continue to put that one full season together that will really show that his health is nothing to be concerned about.

"It's a contract that I believe is right in a lot of ways. With the arbitration rights he had, he obviously had different rights than some of the other players that we've negotiated with to this point."

Oshie could have waited until Friday to see if there would have been any offer sheets made and he had the option of salary arbitration to the July 5 deadline. Both were intriguing options.

"A little bit, but I think mostly I just wanted to sign, just wanted to get here," said Oshie, who has 44 goals and 77 assists in 182 career games. "I couldn't imagine playing anywhere else. I'm very happy with it. I'm glad it's finally done."

The Blues were ready if the route to go was arbitration.

"I'm comfortable with arbitration. I'm comfortable with the process," Armstrong said. "My philosophy going into that is you have to obviously have a meeting with the player and say this is the business side of it. You're going to go in and tell us why you're Wayne Gretzky and we're going to go in and tell you why you're not.

"I'm not adverse to the process, but if you can find something that everyone's comfortable with, I'd rather not go through (arbitration). Sometimes arbitration can be really inflationary. With T.J., I wasn't concerned that it was going to be a number that we weren't going to be able to live with one way or the other."

Make no mistake, the Blues are basically telling Oshie to prove he's worth a long-term, big-dollar deal.

"We wanted to provide him the opportunity to separate himself from other players in our organization, as we wanted to provide that opportunity to some of our other guys the last couple years to separate themselves," Armstrong said. "… For us to be successful, we're going to need some of these guys to separate themselves and become higher-producing players than the 45-50 points. We're going to need some of these guys to get into that 60-, 65-, 70-, 75-point range and that 30-, 35-, 40-goal mark to move forward."

Oshie, whose season was cut short last year when he missed 31 games due to a broken ankle suffered Nov. 10 in Columbus, would have preferred the term to be bigger but understands the task at hand: proving himself and then reap the rewards.

"I was just talking to (Patrik Berglund) a little bit ago and talking about how guys our age are looking bigger and looking stronger in the weight room," Oshie said. "I think that's going to carry over onto the ice. I'm being expected to be in that core group of guys and who's expected to produce, I think having good summers is a big part of playing good during the season.

"... Not going to the World Championships, I started working out a good month earlier than I usually do. I'm working out hard. I'm having the best summer of my career so far and hopefully that'll lead to the best year."

The Blues would like to see some of Oshie's solid defensive responsibilities to parlay into some more offensive output.

"I think there's more to spell out," Oshie said. "I think I've done pretty well in the defensive zone. I think I need to excel in the offensive zone. I think that comes with a lot of video, a lot of realizing when you can and can't make plays and just building chemistry with the players. We were talking about it this summer who we want to play with next year, who we're comfortable with. Hopefully I can start off with a bang right away and keep it going."

Armstrong added, "He's certainly right now a top-nine NHL forward without any question. Can he get into that top six, which is your consistent 60- to 60-plus (point player) or can he get into that top three, which is your consistent 70- to 75-plus guy? He touches the game in so many different ways, from penalty-killing to power play to five-on-five play and his ice time up in the 19-minute mark, which is quite a bit for a forward in our organization.

"If healthy, we know he's going to be a 50-point player. That's my feeling, at least, at the minimum. What level can he take it to? The commitment that he's showing in conditioning and to wanting to be that player and take his game to the next level, he's going to be given that opportunity. You can sense by the way the coach uses him that he trusts him. Now the canvas is clean and he's got to paint the portrait the way he sees it."

Oshie says his body fat is around 9.8 percent, down from the 11.3 percent he was at a season ago. His goal is to get down to 9.5 percent.

"I definitely feel a lot leaner. I'm a little light right now, but I think that's just because I'm getting my body fat down quite a bit," Oshie said. "I've just been working out longer. I'm already a week into my third phase. Usually I'd be starting my second or mid-second right now. It's going really well so far."

Oshie says the broken thumb he suffered April 6 in Chicago is fully healed. Better to use it to deal with the elevated amounts of dollars he now has.

"To see the number, I was talking to my agent (Matt Oates) and he asked, 'Do you want to go for more? Is this good," Oshie said. "I looked at the number and said, 'That's plenty.' That's all I need."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Agents optimistic clients will resign with Blues

Oshie, D'Agostini can become free agents Friday if unsigned; Kariya retires

ST. LOUIS -- Unless a deal can be struck between the two sides, T.J. Oshie and Matt D'Agostini will go into Friday as free agents -- Oshie as a restricted and D'Agostini as an unrestricted.

Both are still on the Blues' radar and both sides continue to discuss parameters of new deals, respectively.

T.J. Oshie scored 12 goals and added 34 points last season (Getty Images)
D'Agostini's agent Steve Bartlett said a couple days ago that he continues to negotiate with the Blues and general manager Doug Armstrong. Oshie's agent, Matt Oates, said Wednesday he's optimistic he can get his client signed.
"Doug and I have been talking a lot over the past couple of days, and things are going well," Oates said.

The free agency period opens Friday at 11 a.m. (St. Louis time) so if Oshie, 24, doesn't agree to a contract with the Blues, he is susceptible to getting offer sheets from other clubs despite the Blues holding his rights. The club can match any offer from another team and compensation would be determined by what an offer may bring. 

Oshie also has arbitration rights and can stake his case in court with a third-party judge and has until July 5 to decide if he will go that avenue. He made $850,000 in base salary last season and $1.275 million with bonuses.

Oshie has had his ups and downs in a Blues uniform since the team drafted him in the first round (24th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. His play on the ice can be elecrtifying and it's made him an important commodity and a fan favorite.

Oshie's coming off a 12-goal, 34-point season in 49 games last year, but he missed 31 games after suffering a broken left ankle in November. In 182 games, Oshie has 44 goals and 121 points during his three seasons in the NHL.

Oshie, who hasn't eclipsed the 50-point mark in any of his three seasons, also missed two games last season after being benched for conduct detrimental to the team. He also missed a good chunk of his rookie season with a high ankle sprain.

"I'm very comfortable where we're at with T.J.," Armstrong said earlier this week. "... You get deals done when everybody feels comfortable. I'm very comfortable that T.J. Oshie is going to be a St. Louis Blue, very comfortable we'll find common ground there."

On Monday, the Blues chose not to give D'Agostini, 24, a qualifying offer, making eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday. He would have been a restricted free agent had the Blues given D'Agostini a qualifying offer.

D'Agostini is coming off his best season, scoring 21 goals and adding 46 points after playing in all 82 games last season.

"I think we're still working on it in good faith," D'Agostini's agent Steve Bartlett said Monday. "Our first hope is to get something done (with the Blues). We had several good conversations, and we'll continue to have good conversations."

* Kariya retires -- Former Blue Paul Kariya has decided to hang the skates up after a 15-year career in the NHL because of multiple concussions.

Kariya, 36, sat out last season after playing the third season of a three-year , $18-million contract he signed with the Blues in the summer of 2007.

Kariya, who scored 36 goals and finished with 123 points in a Blues uniform, played 168 of his 989 career NHL games here in St. Louis. Kariya's best seasons were in Anaheim. He also played in Colorado and Nashville prior to joining the Blues. He finished with 402 goals and 989 career points and is a two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Kariya used some strong words towards the league in reference towards their stance on head injuries and more specific, concussion-related issues (see story here:

Kariya, who's suffered some notable hits in his career from the likes of Scott Stevens and Gary Suter, saw his final concussion come at the hands of Buffalo's Patrik Kaleta here at Scottrade Center on Dec. 27, 2009.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blues extend qualifying offer to Oshie, not D'Agostini

Bishop, Reaves also qualified by Monday's deadline

ST. LOUIS -- There was some unfinished business that the Blues needed to attend to regarding their impending restricted free agents. And at the conclusion of Monday's deadline to extend qualifying offers to potential RFA's, there was both surprise and expected results at the same time.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to forwards T.J. Oshie and Ryan Reaves as well as goalie Ben Bishop. Not a surprise there.

But what may have come as surprising news is that there was no qualifying offer extended to forward Matt D'Agostini, meaning the Blues' winger can become an unrestricted free agent on Friday when the July 1 free agent shopping season opens for business if D'Agostini's not resigned prior to then.

D'Agostini, who set career highs in goals (21) and points (46) a season ago, made $550,000 last season and is salary arbitration eligible, which is something the Blues are balking at, thus the reasoning behind not extending a qualifying offer.

Matt D'Agostini set career highs in goals (21)
and points (46) last season.  (Getty Images)

If a third party were involved, D'Agostini could command upwards of four times what he made last season or more.

The Blues, D'Agostini and his agent Steve Bartlett have held talks and will continue to do so with the interpretation the 24-year-old could still very well wind up in a Blues uniform this season, but the club is taking a risk allowing D'Agostini to hit the open market.

"We had good dialogue leading up to making this decision," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Arbitration is very inflationary. The comparable group (of players to D'Agostini) is a small group. We felt that it was best to negotiate with a larger pool of players, without the backdrop of arbitration."

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to the aforementioned three, thus the club holds onto their rights while continuing negotiations with all three. They each become restricted free agents on Friday and can receive offer sheets from other clubs if not signed beforehand.

Players that earned less than $660,000 must receive an offer for 110 percent of their previous salary, which applies to Reaves, who made $500,000 a season ago. Players earning up to $1 million must receive an offer for 105 percent of their salary, which applies to both Oshie and Bishop, who both made $850,000 last season in base salary. Those players making over $1 million get an offer of 100 percent.

Armstrong said the club continues to speak with the restricted free agents, particularly Oshie and his camp but nothing's imminent. Of the three qualified Monday, Oshie is the only player who holds arbitration rights.

"There's continual dialogue, but not to the point where there's comfort with the other side's position," Armstrong said. "I'm very comfortable where we're at with T.J. ... You get deals done when everybody feels comfortable. I'm very comfortable that T.J. Oshie is going to be a St. Louis Blue, very comfortable we'll find common ground there."

As for D'Agostini, his previous career best numbers were in 2008-09 with Montreal, when he tallied 12 goals and 25 points. The Blues acquired him in a trade from the Canadiens for Aaron Palushaj on March 2, 2010 and feel he still fits into the upcoming season's plans.

"We still think he's a valuable NHL player, and we'd like to continue to talk to him, but not with the backdrop of arbitration," Armstrong insisted. "We're going to continue to talk and hopefully he'll still be a Blue."

Something echoed by Bartlett.

"I think we're still working on it in good faith," Bartlett said. "Our first hope is to get something done (with the Blues). We had several good conversations, and we'll continue to have good conversations."

But the Blues are gambling by giving D'Agostini the choice to walk without compensation should the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native choose to do so.

"If we can't find a common ground (with D'Agostini), there are options we can explore," Armstrong said. "We think that there's a large group of players available on July 1 that represent what we're looking for."

D'Agostini, if qualified, could have requested salary arbitration, with a deadline of July 5.

"Doug said they don't want to throw it to arbitrator ... they want to negotiate something that everyone feels was a mutual decision, not a third party," Bartlett said. "I know more and more teams are less anxious to have an arbitrator decide salary.

"I'm not looking at it like talks have blown up, or that we're not trying to get a deal here. They had to make a decision whether to give me the option of arbitration, and they decided they didn't want to do that."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Blues grab top prospect Rattie to begin final day of draft

Armstrong picks four forwards, two defensemen, pair
of goalies; first as team's director of amateur scouting

ST. LOUIS -- Without a first round pick for the first time in nine years, the Blues quickly went to work on Day 2 of the NHL with a plethora of selections.

In his first draft as the team's new director of amateur scouting since taking over for Jarmo Kekalainen, Bill Armstrong went for plenty of diversity as the Blues selected eight players Saturday over Rounds 2-7 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

The Blues picked three times in the second round (two of the picks came as a result of trades a season ago), once in the third (they traded one third round pick to the New York Rangers) and once in each of the final four rounds, selecting a pair of goalies, two defensemen, two right wingers, a center and a left winger.

"It was a little bit different draft for us because we had to wait to see what all 31 teams did and kind of read off them and plan for that," Armstrong said.

The Blues had the second pick of the second round (32nd overall) as a result of a trade with the Colorado Avalanche in February and were thrilled to get 18-year-old right winger Ty Rattie with the selection.

Rattie, at 5-foot-11 and 163-pounds, played a season ago for Portland of the Western Hockey League. He scored 28 goals and added 51 assists during the regular season and then added nine goals and 22 points in 16 playoff games in helping the Winterhawks to the WHL championship.

Rattie was ranked 17th by the NHL's Central Scouting ranking of North American skaters.

"We're very excited with our first pick with Rattie," Armstrong said. "He was rated a lot higher (and we didn't) initially didn't think he'd be there. When he was, we were ecstatic.

"He's got some good-end offensive hockey skills. He's got some really good thought process to his game. He's going to be one of those guys that has to prove his strength, he has some work to do to get to the NHL, but he certainly has the skill on the ice to play the game."

Rattie was a teammate of Brett Ponich, the 6-7, 225-pound defenseman the Blues drafted in the second round in 2009.

"I can't tell you how good it is to hear your name called at the NHL Draft," said Rattie, a Calgary, Alberta native. "When you're younger, you never thought about this. But to be here right now with an NHL jersey on, I can't tell you how good it feels."

Rattie defines himself as a versatile player at both ends of the ice.

"I'm more of an offensive guy. I like to have the puck, I love to know where my teammates are," he said. "I'm more of a playmaker, but at the same time I can take care of my defensive end. I'm proud of the improvements I've made in the defensive end."

The Blues, who had three of the first 16 picks in the second round, grabbed another right winger in Omsk, Russia's Dmitrij Jaskin with the 41st pick.

Jaskin, 18, played in 33 games with Slavia Praha in the Czech League this past season, recording 10 points (three goals, seven assists). The 6-1, 196-pound forward moved to the Czech Republic when he was eight months old and competed at the 2011 Under-18 World Championship for the Czech Republic. He scored a team-high four goals in six games. Jaskin was ranked fifth overall among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.

The Blues' third pick in the second round (46th overall), which was obtained from Buffalo in the deal for Brad Boyes late last season, was used on 17-year-old Brandon, Manitoba defenseman Joel Edmundson.

Edmundson, at 6-4 and 191 pounds, played in 71 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL last season, recording 20 points (two goals, 18 assists). Edmundson said the Blues were certainly on his radar.

"I talked to them a few times," said Edmundson, who compares his game to that of Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester. "I met them in Toronto and actually met some of them Thursday. It wasn't a real big surprise. It's a really good organization. I'm so proud to be with them."

"I'm a big, stay-at-home defenseman but I can also chip in offensively. I (like to) play more physical."

The Blues were to pick at No. 72 but dealt the selection to the Rangers for 21-year-old Russian forward Evgeny Grachev, who was the Rangers' third round pick in 2008.

Grachev is a big center at 6-4, 224 pounds who played in eight games for the Blueshirts a season ago, registering no points. Grachev tallied 28 goals and added 38 assists in 153 games for the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford the past two seasons.

"There are some openings on our team and there was an opportunity to get a player that we had once scouted and viewed and everyone liked," Armstrong said of Grachev. "He has some really, really good upside in the NHL. He's obviously going to come over here and (have to) earn his spot. He has some upside with his size and skill package."

The Blues had another third-round pick at No. 88, obtained in the trade that sent defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay, and went goalie with the pick, taking Richmond Hill, Ontario native Jordan Binnington with the selection.

Binnington, 17, is 6-1 and 156 pounds. He helped Owen Sound win the Ontario Hockey League's Memorial Cup a season ago by posting a 27-12-1-4 record in 46 games with one shutout, a 3.05 goals-against-average and a .899 save percentage. Binnington was ranked third among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting.

Binnington made 41 saves in Game 6, including 14 in the third period and 25 saves in the 3-2 Game 7 overtime win over Kootenay in the championship series.

"It was an incredible season. I gained a lot of experience," Binnington said, describing playing for former Blue Mark Reeds with the Attack last season and winning it all. "We had such a tight group. It was a great atmosphere every day we came to the rink. It was a lot of fun. We wanted to win for each other."

But upon being selected, Binnington was stoked.

"They're a great organization," he said of the Blues. "I'm so excited right now."

The Blues went with Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec native Yannick Veilleux with their fourth round pick. Veilleux, 18, played last season with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, registering 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists).

The 6-2, 190-pound left winger fits the mold of a power forward.

"I'm a guy who is pretty physical who can score goals around the net," Veilleux said. "I don't like to be too fancy with the puck. I just play a simple game and be a physical (presence)."

Goalie was the pick for the fifth round again, as the Blues selected Vardmo, Sweden's Niklas Lundstrom. Lundstrom, 18, is 6-2 and 187-pounds who played last season with Aik Jr. in the Swedish Junior League. He appeared in 22 games and posted a 3.05 goals against average and .890 save percentage with one shutout.

"They're far off. They're still a ways away," Armstrong said of the goalies selected. "... They're both goaltenders with some good technique. They're both athletic goaltenders with good size. Goaltending's a long-natured development where you have to take a lot of time and have a lot of patience with them."

The Blues went with a center in the sixth round, taking 5-11", 157-pound Saint John, New Brunswick native Ryan Tesink. Tesink, 18, played last season with Saint John of the QMJHL and helped the team capture the Memorial Cup. He led all Saint John rookies in scoring with 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 59 games, helping the Sea Dogs tie a league record for most wins in a season with 58 and go undefeated at home in regulation (32-0-1-1).

With their final pick, the Blues used it in Vantaa, Finland defenseman Teemu Eronen in the seventh round. Eronen, 20, played last season with Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League. The 5-11, 180-pound d-man recorded 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 48 games.

"We've added a lot of depth, a lot of skill, a lot of different positions," Armstrong said. "There's some good size in there. There's also some good, highly-skilled hockey players."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blues begin new era without first round pick

Bill Armstrong takes over for Kekalainen;
team releases 2011-12 regular season schedule

ST. LOUIS -- When the 30 NHL teams converge on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center for the first round of the NHL Entry Draft tonight, each franchise will bank their hopes on getting that player that could one day be a game-changer someday.

The Blues have been working diligently on those matters with fervor since the current ownership group/management team in particular have taken over.

However, barring any major shakeup via trade, for the first time since 2002, the Blues will be bystanders for the first round tonight.

The Blues, who would have been picking 11th tonight when the draft kicks off at 6 p.m. (central time), surrendered their pick to the Colorado Avalanche per the terms of the teams' trade on Feb. 19 that brought Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to the Blues.

And not only will this be the first time in nine years the Blues will not select in the first round, but they will also go into a draft for the first time since that 2002 season without Jarmo Kekalainen, who had been the team's assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting. The Blues hired Bill Armstrong (no relation to GM Doug Armstrong) to replace Kekalainen after the 41-year-old Richmond Hill, Ontario native spent seven seasons with the Blues as an amateur scout.

But Bill Armstrong will have to wait until Saturday to put his first prints on this franchise. The Blues, unless any deals are made, will have three picks in the second round, two picks in the third round and one each in the fourth through seventh rounds of the draft, which concludes Saturday.

The Blues will pick No. 32, 41 and 46 in the second round. The 32nd pick is the second pick of the second round, which was obtained from Colorado in the Stewart/Shattenkirk trade that saw 2006 No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson and Jay McClement go to the Avalanche.

The Blues' original pick in the second round is 41st, but they acquired the 46th pick from Buffalo in the deal that sent Brad Boyes to the Sabres at the trade deadline last season.

The Blues also have an extra third round pick this year, theirs at No. 72 and No. 88, obtained from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eric Brewer trade.

There's been plenty of scuttlebutt out there that the Blues could package one or multiple picks from this draft for NHL-ready players, something Doug Armstrong has made clear that he's willing to do ... if the price is right. But should no deals transpire, the Blues could undoubtedly get some hidden gems in this draft.

They've had players selected in the second round or later that have turned out to become solid NHL players, players such as David Backes (third round, No. 62 in 2003), Nikita Nikitin (fifth round, No. 136 in 2004) and Philip McRae (second round, No. 33 in 2008) to name a few.

* NHL releases 2011-12 schedule -- The Blues and the rest of the teams in the NHL saw their respective regular season schedules unveiled on Thursday. The season begins on Oct. 6 and concludes with all 30 teams playing on April 7.

The Blues open their season at Scottrade Center on Oct. 8 against the Nashville Predators, one of only three home games in the month of October as the Blues play eight of their first 11 games on the road.

The Blues feature a trio of five-game homestands for the upcoming season; they play the host to the Dallas Stars in the annual day-after Christmas game and play in Detroit on New Year's Eve. Nine of 11 games in January will be played on home ice, and the Blues will play Winnipeg once this season, in Manitoba on Feb. 25.

And near the end of the season, the Blues have a brutal stretch where they play 13 of 16 games away from home beginning Feb. 23 and ending March 25.

The Blues will end their season at Dallas against the Stars on April 7.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011-12 St. Louis Blues Schedule

20 -- TAMPA BAY, 7 p.m.
21 -- at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
22 -- MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Colorado, 7 p.m.
24 -- at Dallas, 7 p.m.
27 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
29 -- COLORADO, 7 p.m.
1 -- DALLAS, 1:30 p.m.
8 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
10 -- CALGARY, 1 p.m.
13 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
15 -- at San Jose, 9 p.m.
16 -- at Anaheim, 7 p.m.
18 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
21 -- CAROLINA, 7 p.m.
22 -- at Philadelphia, 6 p.m.
26 -- at Vancouver, 9 p.m.
28 -- at Calgary, 8 p.m.
30 -- at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
4 -- VANCOUVER, 7 p.m.
5 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
8 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
10 -- TORONTO, 7 p.m.
12 -- TAMPA BAY, 7 p.m.
15 -- DETROIT, 7 p.m.
17 -- FLORIDA, 7 p.m.
19 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
22 -- LOS ANGELES, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
25 -- CALGARY, 7 p.m.
27 -- at Columbus, 5 p.m.
29 -- at Washington, 6 p.m.
2 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m.
3 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
6 -- DETROIT, 7 p.m.
8 -- ANAHEIM, 7 p.m.
10 -- SAN JOSE, 7 p.m.
15 -- N.Y. RANGERS, 7 p.m.
17 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
18 -- COLUMBUS, 6 p.m.
21 -- at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.
23 -- at Phoenix, 8 p.m.
26 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
27 -- at Detroit, 6:30 p.m.
30 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
31 -- at Detroit, 6 p.m.
3 -- PHOENIX, 7 p.m.
5 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
7 -- COLORADO, 7 p.m.
10 -- at Montreal, 6:30 p.m.
12 -- VANCOUVER, 7 p.m.
14 -- MINNESOTA, 7 p.m.
16 -- DALLAS, 7 p.m.
19 -- EDMONTON, 7 p.m.
21 -- BUFFALO, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Detroit, 6:30 p.m.
24 -- PITTSBURGH, 7 p.m.
3 -- LOS ANGELES, 7 p.m.
4 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
7 -- at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m.
9 -- at New Jersey, 6 p.m.
11 -- COLORADO, 7 p.m.
12 -- SAN JOSE, 6 p.m.
14 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
16 -- N.Y. ISLANDERS, 7 p.m.
18 -- MINNESOTA, 1 p.m.
19 -- at Chicago, 2 p.m.
22 -- BOSTON, 7 p.m.
23 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
25 -- at Winnipeg, 1 p.m.
27 -- at Calgary, 8 p.m.
29 -- at Edmonton, 8:30 p.m.
1 -- at Vancouver, 9 p.m.
3 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
6 -- CHICAGO, 7 p.m.
8 -- ANAHEIM, 7 p.m.
10 -- COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
11 -- at Columbus, 5 p.m.
13 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
15 -- at Carolina, 6 p.m.
17 -- at Tampa Bay, 6 p.m.
21 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.
22 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
25 -- at Phoenix, 8 p.m.
27 -- NASHVILLE, 7 p.m.
29 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
31 -- COLUMBUS, 7 p.m.
4 -- DETROIT, 6:30 p.m.
6 -- PHOENIX, 7 p.m.
7 -- at Dallas, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blues, Crombeen come to terms on two-year extension

Forward becomes sixth RFA to
resign; preseason schedule released

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong may be a few hundred miles away, but the Blues' general manager continues to make issues back home a priority.

Like checking off another name from the team's restricted free agents to sign.

Armstrong, in St. Paul, Minn. for the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, has certainly been busy getting players signed. Patrik Berglund, Roman Polak, Vladimir Sobotka, Nikita Nikitin and T.J. Hensick all were set to become restricted free agents on July 1. But they all have new contracts in place.

Add winger B.J. Crombeen to the room after the 25-year old signed a two-year, $2 million contract extension Wednesday ($950,000 in 2011-12 and $1.05 million in 2012-13).

"His gritty play and leadership qualities fit in well with our mix of players," Armstrong said of Crombeen in a statement.

Crombeen, who will turn 26 on July 10, has spent the past three seasons with the Blues, which includes a career-high 80 games last season when he recording seven goals and 14 points to go with 154 penalty minutes.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Crombeen has appeared in 248 games in his four-year career, totaling 53 points (26 goals, 27 assists) to go along with 509 penalty minutes.

Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round (54th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Crombeen was claimed off waivers by the Blues on November 18, 2008.

* Blues announce preseason schedule -- The Blues will open the 2011-12 preseason schedule on Sept. 20 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team announced on Wednesday.

The Blues play host to the Lightning at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center. It's part of an eight-game preseason schedule that includes two games each against the Lightning, Minnesota, Dallas and Colorado.

The NHL will release its 2011-12 regular season schedule today at 1 p.m. (central time).

* Blues hire Taylor -- The Blues also announced Wednesday the hiring of Tim Taylor as the team's Director of Player Development.

Taylor, 42, retired from the NHL following the 2007-08 season after a 13-year career that included stints with Detroit, Boston, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay. He was named the Lightning's eighth captain in team history in 2006.

Taylor is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, winning with the Red Wings in 1997 and Tampa Bay in 2004.

"His success as a two-time Stanley Cup winner gives him a unique perspective to pass on to our young players," Armstrong said in a statement.

2011 Free Agent List (UFA/RFA)

With 2010-11 cap hit

UFA: F Teemu Selanne ($4.5), F Jarkko Ruutu ($1.3), F Brad Winchester ($700), F Joel Perreault ($510), D Eric Regan (525), D John DeGray (516), G Jean-Philippe Levasseur ($500), D Nigel Williams ($825), F Ryan Hillier ($750).
RFA: F Tomas Zaborsky ($653).

UFA: D Shane Hnidy ($500), F David Laliberte ($550), F Kirk MacDonald ($500), F Wyatt Smith ($500), F Jeremy Reich ($500), G Nolan Schaefer ($500), G Matt Dalton ($875), D Cody Wild ($850).
RFA: F Brad Marchand ($821), D Andrew Bodnarchuk ($577.5), F Juraj Simek ($500).

UFA: F Mike Grier ($1.5), F Felix Schutz ($550).
RFA: F Dennis McCauley ($500).

UFA: D Steve Staios ($2.7), D Staffan Kronwall ($500), F Ryan Stone ($500), F John Armstrong ($644), D Josh Meyers ($590), F Hugo Carpentier ($530), D Gord Baldwin ($500), F Chris Chucko ($600), F Cam Cunning ($500), G Matt Keetley ($500).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Cory Stillman ($3.533), F Troy Bodie ($500), D Zack Fitzgerald ($500), D Casey Borer ($500), F Nick Dodge ($500).
RFA: None.

UFA: D Chris Campoli ($1.4), F Fernando Pisani ($500), F Ryan Johnson ($500), D Jordan Hendry ($600), G Marty Turco ($1.3), D Jassen Cullimore ($500), F Mathis Olimb ($600).
RFA: D Ivan Vishnevskiy ($846).

UFA: F David Koci ($575), G John Grahame ($500), D Shawn Belle ($600), F Julian Talbot ($550), F Tom Fritsche ($566), D Ray Macias ($550), F Harrison Reed ($533).
RFA: D Kyle Cumiskey ($600).

UFA: F Chris Clark ($2.633), D Craig Rivet ($3.5), D Anton Stralman ($1.95), G David LeNeveu ($550), D Jonathan Sigalet ($575), G Gustaf Wesslau ($900), D Michael Ratchuk ($850), F Petr Kalus (821), F Tomas Kana ($625), F Greg Moore ($550).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Brian Sutherby ($812.5), F Brandon Segal ($550), D Severin Blindenbacher ($1.112), D Trevor Ludwig ($525), G Brent Krahn ($500), D Guillaume Monast ($505).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Mike Modano ($1.75), F Ilari Filppula ($500), F Jordan Owens ($515).
RFA: F Dick Axelsson ($850).

UFA: D Jason Strudwick ($725), F Gregory Stewart ($550), F Ben Ondrus ($550), F Matt Marquardt ($683), D Kevin Montgomery (593), G Bryan Pitton ($541), D Jordan Bendfeld ($525).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Bill Thomas ($525), F Sergei Samsonov ($2.533), F Steve Bernier ($2.0), F Jeff LoVecchio ($605), F Triston Grant ($510), F Hugh Jessiman ($500), D T.J. Fast ($668), D Joe Callahan ($525), F Brady Calla ($603), F Jordan Knackstedt ($572.5), D James DeLory ($556).
RFA: F Shawn Matthias ($821).

UFA: F John Zeiler ($558), F Rob Bordson ($900).
RFA: D Drew Doughty ($3.875), F Oscar Moller ($875), D Johan Fransson ($900), F Bud Holloway ($650), F Corey Elkins ($600).

UFA: F John Madden ($1.25), F Robbie Earl ($550), F Jean-Michel Daoust ($500), D Jamie Fraser ($500).
RFA: None.

UFA: D Paul Mara ($750).
RFA: D Kyle Klubertanz ($550).

UFA: F Jamie Lundmark ($600), D Grant Lewis ($587.5), D Brett Palin ($550), F Steve Begin ($550), F Kelsey Wilson ($525), F Mark Santorelli ($708), F Dan Gendur ($543).
RFA: F Linus Klasen ($900).

UFA: F Adam Mair ($515), D Anssi Salmela ($612.5), D Rob Davison ($500), D Olivier Magnan-Grenier ($500).
RFA: D Maxim Noreau ($575).

UFA: F Andy Hilbert ($575), F Robin Figren ($850), D Dustin Kohn ($715), G Joel Martin ($500), F Jeremy Yablonski ($500), F Rob Hisey ($500).
RFA: F Josh Bailey ($1.725).

UFA: D Bryan McCabe ($5.75), F Todd White ($2.375), F Jeremy Williams ($515), F Matt McCue ($559), D Tysen Dowzak ($533), F Devin DiDiomete ($508).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Marek Svatos ($800), G Pascal Leclaire ($3.8), D David Hale ($675), G Mike Brodeur ($600), D Andre Benoit ($550), F Jason Bailey ($503).
RFA: F Roman Wick ($740), D Geoff Kinrade ($550).

UFA: D Nick Boynton ($500), F Garrett Klotz ($800), G Brian Stewart ($600).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Ryan Hollweg ($500), F Matt Clackson ($500), G Joel Gistedt ($850), D Jeff May ($525), F Josh Lunden ($530).
RFA: F Kyle Turris ($2.695), D Jonas Ahnelov ($750).

UFA: F Mike Comrie ($500), F Joey Haddad ($513).
RFA: None.

UFA: F Kyle Wellwood ($650), F T.J. Trevelyan ($500), F Kevin Henderson ($720), D Nick Schaus ($600), G Carter Hutton ($600), F Michael Swift ($541), D Joe Loprieno ($540), F Patrick Davis ($500).
RFA: None.

UFA: F David Spina ($500).
RFA: None.

UFA: D Mathieu Roy ($600), F Niklas Persson ($550), F Chris Durno ($550), F Mitch Fritz ($525), F Alex Berry ($850), D Vladimir Mihalik ($600), F Stefano Giliati ($546), F Levi Nelson ($538).
RFA: F Johan Harju ($900), G Riku Helenius ($821).

UFA: F Aaron Voros ($1.0), F Alex Foster ($500), F Brayden Irwin ($900), F Fabian Brunnstrom ($675).
RFA: D Luke Schenn ($2.975).

UFA: F Jonas Andersson ($675), F Andrew Peters ($500), G Tyler Weiman ($500), F MacGregor Sharp ($875).
RFA: F Viktor Oreskovich ($575).

UFA: D Brian Fahey ($500), G Todd Ford ($500), F Michael Nylander ($4.875), F Trevor Bruess ($875), D Joe Finley ($850), D Josh Godfrey ($845).
RFA: None.

UFA: D Freddy Meyer ($600), D Jamie Sifers ($525), D Noah Welch ($525), F Jason Krog ($550), F Jared Ross ($500), F Andrew Kozek ($531), F Ian McKenzie ($508).
RFA: D Zach Bogosian ($3.375).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cole eager, determined to make big club

Defenseman spent time working out in
St. Louis, focused on making Blues roster

ST. LOUIS -- In the Blues' 2010-11 team media guide, Ian Cole's bio is listed with the team's regular players.

Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. But the Blues' 2007 first round draft pick out of the University of Notre Dame made it a tough decision right to the end last season on whether he'd make the team out of camp or not.

Cole was in competition with a trio of others fighting for one of two available spots with the big club. And when the 22-year-old came up just short in his quest, the news was tough pill to take but certainly understandable, as far as Cole was concerned.

But looking ahead to the 2011-12 season, Cole heads into it with tunnel vision: he's focused and determined to make the big club and nothing else.

Ian Cole scored a goal and added three assists in 26 games.  Getty Images
"For me personally, I want to be up here full time so I need to show them that I want to be up here," said Cole, who has been working out at the team's practice facility at St. Louis Mills with a couple handful of teammates. "I need to make that obvious by the shape that I come in at training camp. It's kind of hard to do that when you're not here all the time with your play and your attitude. But if you come into (training camp) in good shape, that's a good indicator that this kid wants to play ... and hopefully impress some people."

Cole continued, "As a rookie, you don't know what to expect. If you don't make it, you kind of understand. After having a pretty decent last year ... I thought I played pretty well with the Blues (and) I showed them I can play up here. I can handle myself. I'm not going to look too silly."

Cole was a regular recall from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Peoria frequently, considering the Blues' rash of injuries -- particularly on the defensive side of the ledger. He played in 26 games with the Blues, registering a goal, three assists and a plus-6 rating.

Cole was able to wet his appetite at the NHL level. It was a good experience. Now he wants to be a part of it full-time.

The Blues, barring any trades or free agent signings before the season begins, will open with Alex Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Kevin Shattenkirk, Roman Polak and Carlo Colaiacovo as the team's top five defensemen. They are shoe-ins. The team resigned Russian Nikita Nikitin to a one-year, one-way contract. The deal shows the Blues hold Nikitin in high regard and view the umlimited potential where he's concerned.

So Cole, who will battle with Nikitin for the sixth spot and likely go into camp as the odds-on favorite to be No. 7 unless barring any transactions, is determined and has one advantage in his favor going into next season: the experience factor.

"It's pretty much make the team or ... I don't want to say bust but it would be a disappointment to be sent down," Cole admitted. "I'm not saying it wasn't a disappointment last year, but starting off here and then having a good training camp will be a good indicator that I deserve to be up here and I'm hoping that's the conclusion."

That, and the fact that Blues players took motivation from watching Boston and Vancouver battle it out for the game's most prized possession: the Stanley Cup.

"Watching (Game 7) and looking back at that speechless NHL commercial they have ... that just epitomizes what it's like to win that trophy," Cole said. "You work so hard. It's the hardest trophy to win in sports, bar none.

"Game 7 ... that's the pinnacle right there. Maybe getting married would be a good day, your kids being born would be a good day, but winning the Stanley Cup ... come on, that would be awesome."

Which is why the 18th overall pick of '07 has taken part in strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte's summer workout program.

"It's part of the process," Cole said. "There are some days where you can think to yourself how you're going to go easy on this workout or you don't want to do it today, but it really comes down to what you see on that night (Game 7). If you don't prepare for it now, you might not ever be able to experience what they have experienced in Boston. It's something that I want to experience more than anything."

Cole has since departed and will not return to St. Louis until sometime in August. He will continue to work out on his own, but he'll do so while continuing his education at Notre Dame, where Cole is majoring in psychology.

It doesn't mean Cole will take the rest of the summer for granted. These players realize their time is on the horizon, and they're putting in the necessary time to take those steps towards the playoffs and beyond.

"The summer's going to be crucial," Cole said. "This summer's going to be very telling to make those steps needed to be a playoff team next year. I'm on board with it. We're all stoked."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pietrangelo getting jumpstart on new season

After breakout first campaign, Blues'
defenseman, teammates in midst of summer workouts

ST. LOUIS -- By all accounts, it's been a busy and hectic year for Alex Pietrangelo.

The Blues' defenseman completed his first full NHL season by playing in 79 of the team's 82 games for starters. But after the Blues missed out on the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, instead of making a dash to some exotic getaway for a little R&R, the 21-year-old was off to Slovakia to represent Canada at the World Championships.

Combined with the handful of preseason games, it was roughly a 90-game schedule for the Blues' cornerstone defenseman. For a lot of young players, it could be construed as more than enough games.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo                                               Getty Images
Yes, Pietrangelo did take some time off -- roughly 2 1/2 weeks -- after returning from Slovakia in early May, but it didn't take long to get back to work.

There's no time like the present to get ready for the 2011-12 season, right? That's how a number of Blues players are approaching it as they work out at the team's training facility at St. Louis Mills along with the help of strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte.

"It's the third week into the workout to just kind of get back into the swing of things," said Pietrangelo, who's been joined by fellow teammates Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian Cole, Ben Bishop, Ty Conklin and a handful of team prospects in recent weeks. "You take a couple weeks off at the end of the season, but you kind of itch to wake up in the morning to do something because you're so used to it during the season. This is kind of the first step towards training camp."

By all accounts, Pietrangelo's first season as an NHL player was a successful one. In 79 games, he led the Blues' d-men in a number of categories, including goals (11), assists (32), points (43), plus-minus (plus-18) and average time on ice (22:00).

He then went on and arguably was Canada's most consistent player at the Worlds, leading the team in plus-minus (plus-9) in seven games.

Then it was off for some actual R&R. Even players that are in the best of shape need some time to allow the body to unwind.

However, Pietrangelo was more than eager to get back and resume daily workouts.

"(The 2 1/2 weeks is) a long time," Pietrangelo said. "You're just sitting around and not doing much.

"You don't jump into this right away and go crazy. You kind of ease your way into the summer program and Nelson's been really good with that. Right now, I'm slowly starting to get into the thick of it and the grind of the workouts."

The Blues offer their players a summer program of their choosing here in St. Louis. A number of players are working out on their own and the program is not required to be fulfilled. But whether here or at their summer homes, Blues players seem eager getting ramped up for what they hope is a playoff year.

"You tell Nelson what you want to work on and he'll tell you the exercises for you," Pietrangelo said. "To allow the guys to come here and work out and get under Nelson's supervision, it's really good to see. The coaching staff and the management like to see that."

The summer days, especially those that come immediately after the end of the Stanley Cup final, will be time spent wisely for those players that ran the gamut in these playoffs -- particularly the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. But for the Blues, they want to be where the Bruins and Canucks were.

That's plenty of incentive to get the bodies amped up now.

"It's tough to watch them raise the Cup," Pietrangelo said. "We didn't make the playoffs, but it's still difficult to see. ... That's why you want to start working out now so next year, you get that opportunity. You want to know that your body's ready to go that far."

Especially for a Cup final Game 7, which Pietrangelo said is every hockey player's dream.

"You grow up pretending you're in the finals of the Stanley Cup ... Game 7, scoring that winning goal, but it's true," he said. "Watching that game, what an opportunity it would have been to experience what that would have been like to be a part of. This organization's going the right way. Hopefully one day, we'll get that opportunity."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blues lock up Sobotka with three-year extension

Forward signs $3.9 million deal, joins Berglund,
Polak, Nikitin as impending RFA's to resign

ST. LOUIS -- Another of the Blues' restricted free agent dominoes fell on Wednesday.

In a move speculated recently finally became a formality when the team reached agreement on a three-year, $3.9 million contract extension with forward Vladimir Sobotka.

Sobotka, who will turn 24 on July 2, will make $1.2 million for the upcoming season, $1.3 million in 2012-13 and $1.4 million in 2013-14.

The Trebic, Czech Republic native set career highs in points (29), goals (seven), assists (22) and games played (65) this past season with the Blues, his first since being acquired from the Boston Bruins in exchange for the rights to defenseman David Warsofsky at last season's NHL Entry Draft.

Sobotka's ability to play consistently at both ends of the ice was something the Blues were not willing to part ways with, especially with a player at a young age who's expected to continue to mature and skillfully progress.

"One of the things I respect about Vladi is his versatility," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "It's like dressing two players on a lot of nights. He can play left wing on your top line, be an anchor on your bottom two (lines), power play, kill penalties ... he's real versatile.

"You need two or three guys like that on a roster. I also think at his age, he's defined himself and we know what he's going to do now. He'll be able to provide more offense as he matures. But the type of player he is, he exemplifies what we want to be on the ice as competitors."

Sobotka, who could have been a RFA July 1, joins center Patrik Berglund and defensemen Roman Polak and Nikita Nikitin to resign prior to becoming RFA's. The team has also resigned forwards T.J. Hensick (RFA) and Chris Porter (unrestricted free agent). Both could have become free agents July 1.

Sobotka was originally drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round (106th overall) in 2005. He has appeared in 199 games during his four-year NHL career, totaling 51 points on 13 goals and 38 assists.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blues lock up another piece, reward Polak with long-term contract

Defenseman was eligible to be RFA in July, gets five-year deal

ST. LOUIS -- When Roman Polak signed a two-year contract prior to the 2009-10 season, the Blues' message was simple: go out and prove yourself.

If Polak could prove he was worthy of a four- or five-year deal, he would reap the benefits and get that long-term security, both in length and monetarily.

Mission accomplished, because the Blues felt like the native of Ostrava, Czech Republic proved himself both on and off the ice, so they also rewarded the rugged defenseman with monetary security as well as length.

The Blues and Polak came to terms on a five-year contract that will pay the 25-year-old $13.75 million, with a $2.75 million cap hit per season. Polak's contract will pay him $2 million the first season, $2.45 million in the second season and $3.1 million in each of the final three seasons. The first two seasons are based on the fact Polak would have still been under restricted free agency status; the final three would have made him an unrestricted free agent had be been available.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made the announcement Thursday just two days after the team resigned center Patrik Berglund to a two-year contract.

"We're really excited about where he's at in his career," Armstrong said of Polak. "We have him locked up through what we believe is the prime of his career. It's an exciting time for our organization and an exciting time for Roman.

"When I look at our defensive corps now, we have control over ... either via contract or via restricted free agency three of our top four defensemen for the next five years. That's exciting to know that we have something we can continue to build around and continue to grow on."

Despite a season in which Polak missed a good chunk of games due to a lacerated wrist injury, the 6-foot-1, 227-pound defenseman is an asset the Blues simply couldn’t subject to offer sheets. Polak would have been a restricted free agent on July 1.

"With regards to Roman, he's defined himself on what type of player he can be, what he's going to do for the next five years," Armstrong said. "We ask him to do a very difficult job on a nightly basis, playing against the other team's top players and make life difficult for them. He's a prime time penalty killer.

"My belief is to reward those guys that have to do the real dirty work, when you have to expose yourself nightly to shot-blocking and playing that physical way. I was glad to see that we could put some security to Roman. Now he can go out here and do that knowing without anything on the back of his mind contractually he can go out and play that hard style game that we need to him to play to be successful."

Polak played in 55 games last season, recording 12 points on three goals and nine assists along with 33 penalty minutes. He's played in 227 career NHL games, all with the Blues, posting 49 points (eight goals, 41 assists) along with 143 penalty minutes.

"Roman has defined himself now," Armstrong said. "I use that word defined in definition for our younger players. I have a strong belief on what he's going to be. He's going to be a primary, shutdown defenseman. He's proven he can play in that role. He's playing in our top four. We know the minutes he's going to log. There's real definition in his game right now."

With the Blues' ownership still in limbo, there was rational discussion whether to offer any players long-term deals at the present time. But Armstrong made clear that Dave Checketts and SCP Worldwide signed off on the deal.

The Blues could have gone the shorter route and offer up a two-year deal, but then they would expose Polak after the second season and leave him in UFA territory.

"Getting Roman signed for two years was certainly an option, but then we were going to be in competition at that point with 29 other teams to secure him as an unrestricted free agent," Armstrong said. "We just felt as an organization there was no need to go down that road if we didn't have to knowing what was there with Roman, knowing how he has competed for the team and how he will compete moving forward."

There were reports that the team also had come to terms with forward Vladimir Sobotka, also a RFA. But Armstrong said negotiations are still ongoing with a number of RFA's on the team and no deal has been reached with Sobotka yet.

"I think Vladi is an excellent young player and really has all the qualities that we want in our organization from tenacity and competitiveness," Armstrong said. "I'm hoping that in the near future we'll be having another (announcement) where we're talking about his signing, but ... until there's something signed in the NHL, you don't have an agreement."

The Blues still have a number of RFA's to get under contract, which could affect what the team does or does not do at the upcoming draft in Minnesota.

"It doesn't really affect the draft," Armstrong insisted. "It does affect moving forward to free agency and in a small way, at the draft, because now we know as you're putting your team together for the 2011-12 season, I know what we're going to be paying Roman Polak, I know exactly what we're paying Patrik Berglund as I know what we're paying other players under contract.

"It does add more pieces to the overall puzzle of not only how next year's team is going to be constructed but how the payroll's going to be allotted. It does help in that fashion. Then you get into July and depending on what we want to do via the unrestricted free agency market, we do have more information of committed dollars."