Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Despite the reasonable cynicism, Hitchcock claims that after the Blues’ third straight playoff exit under his direction, the feeling is different this time.
“Yeah, it’s what happens when a team starts to really grow up,” he said. “It’s like we’ve learned a lot the last three years and you can see it in the players’ approach right now. They understand the details that they can control in the offseason. There’s no crash course going on now. Everybody is getting what they need.
“Some guys come in early, do their off-ice workout, take 20 minutes of the skate and leave. They’re not trying to search and find it. So they’ve got a maturity about them from a conditioning standpoint that good teams have. They know how long the season is, how hard the season is and they know what they have to do to get ready to have a good training camp.”
Having a good training camp, or even a record-breaking regular season, though, is no longer the measure of success in St. Louis.
ST. LOUIS - The Blues have invited unrestricted free agent forward Paul Bissonnette to a tryout at training camp.
Bissonnette, 29, has played in 202 career NHL games, registering seven goals and 15 assists (22 points). He has a plus-7 rating and 340 career penalty minutes.
Bissonnette spent the past five seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes. He made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008-09 season.
Paul Stastny talks after his first infomal skate with the St. Louis Blues...
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, 22, is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level deal and remains unsigned.
Because Schwartz has played only two NHL seasons (which includes the lockout-shortened year) and doesn't have arbitration rights, obviously there's only so much he can ask for.
While neither side in the negotiation wanted to comment on what's transpiring, I'm guessing given that Ondrej Palat got three years with an average cap hit of $3.33 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning, that's a comparable on some level, especially since Palat only had one NHL season under his belt.
Because it's believed both the Blues and agent Wade Arnott of Newport Sports are focusing on a two-year, bridge deal for Schwartz, I'd shave off a bit of money on the shorter-term deal. Could $2.5 million or $2.75 million a year make it work? My guess is Newport would want as close to $3 million as possible and the Blues are likely in the low-$2 million range. Both sides need to bridge the gap here but I don't sense there's as much of an issue here compared to the Johansen-Blue Jackets situation.
more topics including the latest on Martin Brodeur...
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch,
Schwartz’s agent, Wade Arnott, and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong have held lengthy discussions in recent weeks, but agree they are not close on a contract extension.
“We remain significantly apart on our respective positions at this point,” Arnott said Wednesday.
“I understand their position, they understand our position,” Armstrong said, “and there is a gap in the level of compensation.”
The success of Schwartz, 22, in such a short time has made for a complicated negotiation.
In 2013-14, Schwartz ranked third on the Blues’ roster with 25 goals and fourth in points with 56. He finished with a plus-minus rating of plus-28, tops on the team and tied for No. 13 in the NHL.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
We’ll take a look at different storylines over the next couple of weeks as camps near, but here are two of the teams that grab my attention right away: the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
This is an important season for this franchise. They’ve been knocking at the door for three years and have one playoff series win to show for it.
Of course, losing to powerhouse Chicago in the opening round last spring is hardly anything to be embarrassed about. And they lost to Los Angeles the other two postseasons. Talk about playoff royalty. It just underlines yet again the imbalance that exists in the NHL right now in terms of the predominance of the Western Conference.
It’s difficult, yes, but the Blues have to figure out how to join the Kings and Blackhawks at that level.
from Paul Lukas of ESPN,
The classics are classic for a reason.
The uni-verse has taught us that lesson countless times, and it did so again this week when the St. Louis Blues finally dispensed of all the nonsense and got back to basics with their new uniform design.
How superior is this new design to the one it's replacing? Let us count the ways:
1. No more apron strings.
Those annoying gold stripes that ran down the torso and continued onto the pants, which were added to the Blues' uniform in 2007, were a disaster from the get-go. They made the chest logo feel too boxed in and confined, they looked like dangling apron strings, and they almost never lined up from jersey to pant leg. They reeked of gimmickry and templating -- two surefire ways to ruin a uniform -- and getting rid of them is a textbook case of addition by subtraction.
from Louie Korac at NHL.com,
"You don't see him really doing the flashy things or anything like that, but playing with him at the [Winter] Olympics, he makes every part of the game so much easier on his linemates," forward T.J. Oshie said of Stastny. "... He makes the game easier, he makes it more simple and everything's more clear on the ice."
General manager Doug Armstrong got the blessing from team leaders, including captain David Backes and alternate Alexander Steen, to go out and acquire a top-notch player regardless of the cost. If Stastny, who is the highest-paid player on the team, can push the Blues over the edge, then the investment will be more than worth it.
"I think it's a respect for an older, veteran player in 'Steener' and myself knowing that the free-agent market was one where you were going to have to pay a premium for a great player," said Backes, who played with Stastny on the United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "There was no hesitation on both parts to say, 'Absolutely, bring a guy like that in.' We're only going to be better for it. Ultimately, we're here to win. We're here to win games. We want to win a championship, and he's going to help us do that.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
“I think everyone in the organization was disappointed, fans clearly were, when we were up two games to none [and lost],” Tkachuk told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview. "The young guys, I think it will be beneficial to them to be a little aggravated, to see them knocked off by Chicago, which is a good rivalry here in town.
“I think you’ll see a lot of angry guys, pissed-off guys [in camp].”
Those young guys are the key to the Blues’ future and remain a bright spot for a team that has gone into recent postseasons as one of the elite squads out West and then run into some of the most fearsome opponents.
more from Tkachuk on the Blues...
from Louie Korac at NHL.com,
Can the Blues compete for the Cup with their revamped goaltending? -- The Blues allowed Ryan Miller to leave via free agency and will confidently turn to veteran Brian Elliott and rookie Jake Allen, who has 15 games of NHL experience under his belt.
The Blues feel like Elliott, who signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract, earned the right to go into the season as the No. 1.
"[Ellliott's] watched two other guys [Miller and Jaroslav Halak] get the ball," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Now he feels like it's his turn. There's still going to be competition, but I think Brian's going to start as the incumbent based on experience and all the work he's put in."
Will the additional depth at center pay off? -- Adding Stastny, Jori Lehtera, Peter Mueller and Joakim Lindstrom to a group that includes David Backes, Patrik Berglund, Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre gives the Blues strong reinforcement despite losing Vladimir Sobotka to the Kontinental Hockey League.
"We wanted to add depth, we wanted to add competitive depth, we wanted to strengthen the middle of the ice and that's what we've done," Hitchcock said. "We've added scoring depth and we added real definitive depth at the center ice position."
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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