Kukla's Korner Hockey
At the American Century Championship yesterday...
from Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated,
This time last year, the St. Louis Blues were the sexy pick to run the table and capture the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. They lived up to the billing early, playing like the NHL's best team for a good part of the season before stumbling down the stretch and flaming out in a first-round loss to the Blackhawks.
It was a familiar story to the team's long-suffering fans. Good ... but not good enough. Again.
That frustrating finish revealed some obvious flaws in the makeup of the club. Compared to conference heavyweights like Chicago and Los Angeles, there wasn't enough talent in the middle. There wasn't enough depth up front. There was an awkward mix on the back end.
To compete with the big boys, St. Louis needed more than a fresh coat of paint. General manager Doug Armstrong has delivered. After his active summer, the Blues may finally be ready for their close-up.
from Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
On July 6, one day after Sobotka chose not to file for arbitration, the Blues did, “hoping to expedite the process,” Armstrong said.
Meanwhile, Sobotka had switched agents again, leaving a frustrated Bartlett. He hired Petr Svoboda, the former NHL player, of Sports Associates International.
With the KHL being a legitimate option, Svoboda and Armstrong began negotiations.
“He started at $2.4 million (for one season) and he came up to $2.7 million, so he gave me his best number,” Svoboda said. “We were at one year, $3 million. So basically it was over $300,000. There was no room for negotiation. It was one year at $2.7 (million) — take it.”
Armstrong acknowledged that $2.7 million was the Blues’ last offer for one year, because the team would be unwilling to pay more knowing that Sobotka would then be an unrestricted free agent next summer, but added that a two-year proposal paying $3 million per season was also on the table.
Sobotka, who averaged $1.3 million the last three years, was not interested. Being UFA eligible in 2015, his camp believed that he was worth more than $3 million in Year 2.
The St. Louis Blues have lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com is reporting Sobotka has signed with Omsk of the KHL.
Sobotka had nine goals and 33 points in 61 games for the Blues last season. The 27-year-old has 35 goals and 123 points in 381 career NHL games, spent split between the Blues and Boston Bruins.
Sobotka was a restricted free agent.
(July 10, 2014) – St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has re-signed forward Steve Ott to a two-year contract.
Ott, 31, joined the Blues via trade from Buffalo last season on Feb. 28, and went on to post three assists and 37 penalty minutes in 23 regular season games, as well as two assists and 14 penalty minutes in six postseason appearances. Prior to his acquisition, Ott produced 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) and 55 penalty minutes in 59 regular season games as Buffalo’s captain in 2013-14.
The heated rivalry that developed between the Avalanche and Blues last season, involving coaches Ken Hitchcock and Patrick Roy and leaking out onto the ice, was an element in the St. Louis signing of Stastny. I’m convinced of that. These are Central Division rivals, the Blues blew the division title last season by losing six straight to finish the regular season, and lost to the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wasn’t publicly drawn into the bitterness that developed between the two franchises, but it all adds up to a perfect storm — Stastny’s St. Louis roots; the Blues not only adding Stastny, but taking him away from a division rival; and perhaps a one-finger salute from Hitchcock to Roy in the wake of their bitter and even profane exchanges last season.
-Terry Frei of the Denver Post where you can read more on the Avalanche losing Paul Stastny to the Blues in free agency.
from Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
Armstrong had to do something, and he did. There should be an undeniable instant gratification. There assuredly has to be a civic connection. To be determined is how it translates on ice.
Stastny and Lehtera make the Blues deeper and hopefully more potent up front. Their arrival creates intrigue about how Backes and Patrik Berglund will look on the wing. Coach Ken Hitchcock’s line permutations should become even more fascinating.
Best of all, Stastny declined to play the over-the-top pander card. He acknowledged his familiarity and appreciation for the area but declined to say it was the overriding factor in his decision.
“I know the lay of the land,” he said, which certainly includes knowledge of this franchise’s legacy of postseason frustration. He referred to his verdict as “a hockey decision.”
More relevant, Stastny cited this roster’s capacity to create four balanced lines or two dominant ones. He senses a window of opportunity opening, not closing. “There are so many good players available.”
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
The St. Louis Blues made quite the splash Tuesday, signing the most coveted center on the unrestricted free-agent market, Paul Stastny.
Just imagine had they also traded for Jason Spezza on top of that?
That’s exactly what the Blues would have attempted had the Ottawa Senators not dealt him so early in the day.
The priority in St. Louis was to make sure Stastny was going to sign there, but a source told ESPN.com the Blues would have also circled back to the Senators after that to inquire about what it would take to get Spezza as well.
Go big or go home, right?
continue plus talk on Dallas, Chicago and more topics...
This isn't the time to stay the course or to hope for more from the current roster. That plan has brought the Blues to the brink in recent years as a slew of former No. 1 draft picks and other top prospects have matured into legitimate NHL talent.
This isn't the time to hope things get better. This isn't the time to wonder if this is the season that Player A or Player B have breakout years.
-Norm Sanders of the News-Democrat on the St. Louis Blues. Read more on the Blues needing to make a splash this summer.
Eight teams have won a conference semifinal series the last three seasons. Sixteen teams have won at least one game in the second round during that span. The Blues are the most glaring absence from both classes. The franchise has endured 12 years since winning a game in the conference semis.
My gut tells me Armstong will make something happen this summer, maybe this week. The need for scoring and a deeper edge are too obvious. If my gut is wrong, a lot of folks will share the reflux.
-Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where you can read more on the Blues.
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