Friday, August 18, 2017

Reaves ready to give Penguins anything they need

Lifelong Blue, traded to Pittsburgh on June 23, 
excited about move after initial shock of trade

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- A Friday morning at the Ice Zone inside St. Louis Outlet Mall looked very familiar for Ryan Reaves as it has for the past seven seasons.

There was Reaves, on the ice during an informal skate with Blues players and local skaters for other NHL teams and college teams, working out, taking part in drills and scrimmages as if nothing has changed.

But in fact, it has changed. All one had to do was look at the logo to notice something never seen before: Reaves wearing a logo other than the Bluenote.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (right), here shown checking Minnesota's
Christian Folin during the first round of the playoffs
in April, is ready to join the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Reaves was his usual jovial self, joking and laughing with what are now ex-teammates, but the colors black and gold made up his attire rather than the blue and white.


It was the full-circle look of what was a trade on June 23 that sent Reaves to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins along with a 2017 second-round pick for the Penguins' first-round pick (No. 31, which the Blues used to select forward Klim Kostin) and forward Oskar Sundqvist.

Reaves, 30, is still in St. Louis getting his pre-training camp work in before making the trek east-northeastward to Pennsylvania and to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, where he'll be the new sheriff in town to protect the well-being of superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and others. 

But the sight of Reaves, still a fan favorite who was drafted by the Blues in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Draft and spent his entire seven-year NHL career in St. Louis, wearing a Penguins practice jersey cemented the finality of his Blues career.

"It was funny, because somebody told me gold and black isn't your color," Reaves said Friday. "But everybody forgets that I came from the (Brandon) Wheat Kings (of the Western Hockey League), which is gold and black. I think I look good in these colors.

"... You go from playing with the Tarasenkos and the Steens here and now I get to go play with Crosby, Malkin and that Guentzel kid (Jake Guentzel) is starting to light it up. I'm definitely excited. I'm obviously very honored and humbled that a team that good and that's won the last two years wanted me on their team and traded for me. I'm excited to do whatever they need me to do to help them win a third one."

Reaves, who had a career-high in goals last season with seven, tied a career-high in assists with six and set a career-high in points with 13, said he had to get through the initial process of no longer being a Blue, and that was not easy initially.

"The first night was a lot of processing and the next morning was a little more emotional just because I talked to a lot of the boys," said Reaves, who was tipped off by friend and former Blue Chris Stewart of the Penguins' interest before having what he called a brief conversation with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "I talked to a lot of them that first night, but obviously the guys in Europe hadn't heard the news yet, so I talked to a lot of them the next morning. The second day, it was tough, but the days have been getting better and at this point, I'm very excited to get down there and get going.

"I don't know if it's just that I've spent my whole career here (in St. Louis). I think more so that I've been here for so long, I have roots here now. You make a lot of friends inside and outside the organization. You create a fan base for yourself. There's a lot of tough things about leaving the organization for 7-10 years, but that's the business part. I always said I've never been traded in any league, but eventually the business side was going to catch up to me."

The Penguins targeted Reaves with a purpose: to get the 6-foot-1, 225-pound winger there to police the lineup in case the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kris Letang, Phil Kessel and a slew of other talents get the rough treatment by the opponent, as was evidenced during the Penguins' second-round playoff series this past season against the Washington Capitals, one in which Crosby sustained another concussion.

"Sometimes you look at trades and sometimes it's dumping salary, sometimes it's just getting rid of a player," Reaves said. "I think the feeling was however I can go in there and help, they wanted me that they traded for me. I'm excited. I don't think this is a getting-rid-of-me kind of move. It's something they thought they needed in their lineup and I'm excited to bring it."

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford told reporters after the trade that this is who he wanted and with that sole purpose in mind.

"We're getting a little bit tired of getting beat up game after game," Rutherford said.

Reaves will be taking his wife Alanna and daughter to Pittsburgh and sometimes, uprooting a young family can be difficult. But not in this case.

"My wife hasn't shown any signs about feeling down about the trade or anything," Reaves said. "I think that's the hardest thing about leaving is how close the whole organization is and the wives. But Pittsburgh's been really good to her. They sent her a nice little booklet of everything that's in the city, daycares, restaurants, everywhere to get her hair and nails done. She talked to the GM's wife. I think she feels just as excited as I am. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Ryan Reaves (75), here fighting friend and former teammate Chris Stewart
last season in Minnesota, could be called upon to do more of the same
this season with Pittsburgh after being traded to the Penguins. 

"I talked to Crosby a couple times, a couple texts from a few of the other guys. I think that's the main reason I want to go down there early is to meet all the guys and let them know what I'm about and see what they're about. Get used to them early."

And in what couldn't have been a better script, Reaves' first NHL game with the Penguins will be on opening night, Oct. 4, against ... you guessed it: the Blues. And he'll be teammates again with former Blue Ian Cole.

"You can't write that. It's going to be a weird and emotional first game for me," Reaves said. "I think obviously we're going to be raising the banner, but I wasn't part of that team and then looking across the ice, that was a team I was a part of. I'm kind of in the middle for the pregame skate, but once that puck drops, I hope everyone in that Bluenote has their head up."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Agent: Blues sign Prosser to solidify depth

Former Wild defenseman spent brief time in St. Louis in 2014 before being 
reclaimed on waivers by Minnesota; Kraft Hockeyville game to be televised


By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues solidified their depth on the blue line, signing veteran defenseman Nate Prosser to a two-year contract.

Nate Prosser
The Blues have yet to announce the signing, but Prosser's agent, Ben Hankinson, confirmed in a tweet that Prosser, who was with the Blues very briefly during training camp in 2014 after signing a one-year, two-way contract, was headed to St. Louis.

Terms of the contract were undisclosed.

Prosser, 31, is a veteran of eight NHL seasons (all with the Wild) will be reunited with Blues and former Wild coach Mike Yeo.

Prosser has played in 302 NHL regular-season and postseason games; he has seven goals and 31 assists in 282 regular-season games and another two assists in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Prosser's addition gives the Blues seven veteran defensemen and 23 rostered players under contract and gives him a shot at becomig the team's seventh defenseman.

* Kraft Hockeyville details revealed -- The Blues' preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 24 will now be held in Cranberry Township, Pa. at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

The game was originally slated for in Belle Vernon, Pa., which was the winner of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017 to be played at Rostraver Ice Garden.  

The game will now be played at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Blues to get national exposure on NBCSN

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will get their fair share of exposure on the national stage for the upcoming season.

The Blues will get 10 games of television time on the NBC Sports Group, with all 10 games being televised on NBCSN, including seven dates at Scottrade Center, the season-opener on Oct. 4 at the Pittsburgh Penguins and three of four games against the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Here are the dates and times for the Blues' games on NBCSN:

Wednesday, Oct. 4 at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 18 vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 21 vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 12 vs. Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 6 vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 27 at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 28 vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.
Sunday, March 18 at Chicago, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 21 vs. Boston, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, April 4 vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blues sign Parayko to five-year, $27.5 million contract

Defenseman was scheduled for arbitration hearing 
Thursday morning, will average $5.5 million per season

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The wait is over for Blues defenseman Colton Parayko.

Just minutes before the team and Parayko were headed to arbitration, the sides came to a resolution on a new deal after announcing the signing of a five-year, $27.5 million contract for the restricted free agent ($5.5 million AAV).

The contract will take Parayko, 24, through the 2021-22 season when he can become an unrestricted free agent.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues and defenseman Colton Parayko (pictured)
avoided arbitration Thursday with Parayko signing a 
five-year contract worth $27.5 million.

With Parayko filed arbitration, teams were no longer allowed to submit offer sheets for him, and a hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday morning in Toronto. 

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that the Blues offered a two-year, $7 million contract ($3.4 million next season and $3.6 million in 2018-19) for the arbitration hearing; Parayko's camp reportedly countered with a one-year offer at $4.85 million. 

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said he earlier in the summer he was always committed to signing Parayko and that it was a priority to keep the 2012 third-round pick around in a Blues uniform.

"We're obviously pleased to have Colton signed up for five years," Armstrong said Thursday morning. "We think that he's just starting to scratch the surface on what he's becoming in this league. He's got two years now of service where he understands the commitment necessary, he understands the league, he understands the players. We just think he has a really strong upside and we're excited to have him for the next five years.

"Our goal was to try and get him a contract with some term. Arbitration wasn't a big issue if we had gone just because he's three years away from unrestricted free agency. It wasn't something that we were walking him right through the door or taking another opportunity to get a long-term deal. The process of going wasn't an issue for us or for Colton. When we talked this morning, Colton and I and Marty Brodeur had a good opportunity to do that and sort of try and describe what we're building and what we're planning. Having (Jaden) Schwartz signed with some term and (Vladimir) Tarasenko and Jake Allen and to have him under some term, he'll be a part of a core group of guys that we can continue to grow with."

Parayko has played two seasons in the NHL with the Blues and is coming off a four-goal, 31-assist season in 81 games and established himself with fellow blue liner Joel Edmundson as a solid, reliable duo. Parayko averaged 21:12 in ice time last season.

Parayko's AAV makes him the second-highest paid defenseman on the team, behind captain Alex Pietrangelo, who has three years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $6.5 million.

With Parayko, Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and Edmundson in the fold, the Blues are pleased with their d-core moving forward.

"Our defense has always been one of our strengths," Armstrong said. "When you get a third-round pick that burst onto the scene like Colton did a couple years ago, it really opened up different avenues. We're really excited to have him a part of our group. We're excited. We really think that (Jordan) Schmaltz and (Vince) Dunn and (Jake) Walman all will have an opportunity to play. They might not all live to play because that's just the way the league works out, but if we can get a few of those guys to be NHL players, more than just your run of the mill players but good NHL players, we'll be in great shape for a long time to come in the back end."

Parayko had nine goals and 24 assists in 79 games as a rookie after playing college hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a short 17-game stint with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League; he made the All-Rookie Team in 2015-16.

Parayko's season last year was overloaded; he played for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey prior to his NHL season and represented Canada at the IIHF World Championship after the Blues were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kyrou taking humble approach towards NHL

Blues' 2016 second-round pick had 30-game point streak in OHL 
last season, displayed noticeable skill at prospects camp recently

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou raised plenty of eyebrows during a 30-game point streak in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

Kyrou, a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft (No. 35), had a breakout season with the Sarnia Sting, his third with the OHL club, last season with 94 points (30 goals, 64 assists). But the 19-year-old Toronto native who recently attended his second Blues prospects camp at the Ice Zone, said that there's more to his 6-foot, 183-pound frame than just scoring.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues 2016 second round pick Jordan Kyrou had his full display of skill
on hand at prospects camp recently at the Ice Zone.

"I just want to come out here and play my game and do the best I can and show everyone I can also play hard on the puck and do other things other than score," Kyrou said. "... You come here and you get to meet all of the staff and everyone's great here. It's good to come here and you also bond with other players. It's great."

Kyrou, who began his Sarnia career with 36 points in 2014-15 and 51 points in 2015-16, has shown flashes of why the Blues drafted the center. His skill will soon grace the ice at Scottrade Center and as a primer, Kyrou won't be content with eye-opening moments for one season; he wants to continue to master his craft moving forward, which will include attending Blues training camp in September and for Hockey Canada's national junior team's summer development camp.

"I thought throughout the year (last season) I was getting more confident in my game and I think I was not worrying too much about anything, just going out and playing my game," Kyrou said. "I wasn't worrying about the draft because the year before was my draft year and I had a tough year. Last year, I just came out and played my game and didn't really worry about anything. I worked on my skills and just got better.

"The NHL's becoming a faster game. Obviously everyone's a lot bigger and stronger, so there are a couple things that I can work on. Things like get bigger and that's going to come with more training in the summer."

Kyrou, who looks up to former Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk and Boston Bruins center David Krejci, has added significant muscle to his body. 

"Last year, I came out of the season like 160-something and this year, I'm already at like 183 and I've still got like most of the summer," Kyrou said. "I'm at a good spot for now. I just want to continue to build strength, get stronger. That's my main focus.

"I try to take away (Datsyuk's) smarts and his skills and try to add that to my game."

During Kyrou's point streak last season, he had a whopping 17 goals and 35 assists; he finished the season 32 points better than anyone on his team (Drake Rymsha, 62 points). 

The best attitude while the points continued to add up was to remain humble.

"One thing I learned last year was not to expect anything of yourself," Kyrou said. "Obviously you're going to be expect the best of yourself, right? You just have to play your game and just focus on yourself and focus on getting better and what you can do to help yourself."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues prospect Jordan Kyrou lifts weights at a recent prospects camp. Kyrou
tallied 94 points, including a 30-game point streak, last season in the OHL.

Kyrou signed a three-year entry-level contract worth $2.775 million on July 27, 2016, and once his season with Sarnia ended, he got to play in one game with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. 

Kyrou has his sights set high, but chances are he'll have to continue to develop before reaching St. Louis. However, it's been so far, so good.

"Obviously I'd love to be in the NHL of course," Kyrou said. "I'll just do my best and we'll see what happens."

Monday, July 10, 2017

Walman could be on Blues' horizon sooner than later

Defenseman, third-round pick in 2014, got to work at prospects camp, 
will get first full season in AHL to show why he'll be looked at in near future

By LOU KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Jake Walman's second tour at a Blues prospect camp should have been a formality, a sort of been-there, done-that mentality.

But for Walman, who the Blues picked in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, it was his first time on the ice, and there was a look that the 6-foot-1, 200-205 pound defenseman was looking forward to actually be able to physically take part in the camp after being a helpless spectator in 2016.

"Good to be healthy, yeah," Walman said during camp, which started June 28 and ended July 1. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
After sitting out with a shoulder injury last summer, Blues prospect Jake
Walman (pictured) skated in his first prospects camp recently.

Walman was coming off a year in 2015-16 in which a shoulder injury cut short his season at Providence College that required season-ending surgery, a year after helping the Friars to a Frozen Four title.

That's a big reason why Walman returned for a third season with the Friars in 2016-17, and although he finished with just seven goals and 18 assists in 39 games, Walman was able to get a read on what being a pro was about, take it back to college before signing his entry-level contract in March before joining the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"It was a little bit of a relief being able to go into each game and be healthy," Walman said. "Come in here, it gives me a little more confidence to show my stuff. Last year, I was just watching from the side. It was tough. There might be a little expectation to show my stuff. It's more welcoming now than I'm healthy.

"... Just because I didn't have as many points as I had the year before (13 goals, 15 assists in 27 games), I think my game still improved. I became more defensive-aware. I thought that my third year of college turned me into more of a complete player and the fact that I was healthy and I felt strong, it all kind of gave me confidence to take the next step. I thought I was ready to go."

Walman's a left-handed shot, and he'll likely get a full season in the AHL after playing seven games in the regular-season with the Wolves; he had two goals and an assist before also adding two goals and an assist in eight Calder Cup playoff games.

"It (was) a huge help," Walman said of his stint with the Wolves. "I think getting my feet wet was really important. That being said, the coaches in Chicago coming over here (Craig Berube, Darryl Sydor and Daniel Tkazcuk) kind of helps me out a little bit in the fact that I know them and they know what I can do. I think I gained a little bit of experience at the pro level. It's definitely a lot different from college so translating that to the NHL level is something that I've got to work on now.

"The biggest thing is just seeing the players that I idolized growing up and not necessarily the best NHL players but guys that have been there and experienced the NHL for years and playing against them, it's eye-opening at the beginning and then you get settled in and you enjoy the moment. You're playing the game you love just like they still are. Another thing that I kind of realized was those guys that have been there for years, they're still working hard and they're still doing the same things that I'm trying to do. No matter how old you are or how long you've been there, it's the same work process."

Walman, 21, being a left-handed shot, is in a position were his ascension to the NHL could come quicker than others. The Blues' depth chart on the left side has 33-year-old Jay Bouwmeester (two years remaining on his contract), Joel Edmundson, a staple with fellow 24-year-old Colton Parayko and 30-year-old Carl Gunnarsson, who also has two years remaining on his contract. So this is an opportunity for Walman, who will be at training camp in St. Louis in September, be ready to make inroads with Blues brass.

"His game is based on quickness and based on his head, his ability to move the puck and what he can do offensively on the power play," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said of Walman. "... I think Traverse City is going to be a really good test for him on taking what he learned last year at the American Hockey League at the end. I saw a huge improvement from Colton from the summer to where he ended to what he did in Traverse City (in 2014). He was a man at Traverse City a few years ago and we didn't have him on our team that year. We thought half a year in the minors and all of the sudden, he never went back. 

"I'm not saying I'm expecting that from any of the guys going there, but that's sort of how I see a guy like Walman coming in and defining himself more at Traverse City because his skill set is going to transfer really good to what you're going to see out there (at prospects camp). There's not a lot of pushback right now."

Walman, who signed a $2.775 million contract, will now play for keeps. No more being one of the top cogs at Providence, where he was heavily counted upon to lead the Friars. 

"It's a job now. It's still fun for me, it's the game I love, but it's a job and everyone's trying to make a living for themselves," Walman said. "I'm still taking courses, so I'm still getting a little bit of schooling done and I'm going to finish my degree, but yeah, at the same time, I'm playing the game that I love. It's good to kind of have a job that you enjoy coming to every day and working hard.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jake Walman (front) lifts weights during Blues prospects camp completed
recently. Walman said he's up to 200-205 pounds from 193 last season.

"I can do anything I put my mind to. I love what I do and I work hard every time I get an opportunity, so I'm excited."

But it's why Walman will not take anything for granted. Wherever he lands, he'll continue to push to get to the NHL level and give Armstrong and those in charge a reason to keep Walman's name entrenched in their heads.

"I have no timeline on anything," Walman said. "I just take it day-by-day and it's my first kind of real opportunity coming out of college. Every day I'm going to put my foot to the pedal and kind of grind as hard as I can. I know there's a chance for anything so I'm going to work hard every day. You'll see that both on and off the ice."

It's what Blues fans are counting on.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blues sign trio of forwards early in free agency period

Thorburn expected to fill role vacated by Reaves gets two-year, $1.8 million, 
Bennett restricted free agent Sundqvist each get one-year, $650,000 contracts

By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues weren't expected to make any big splashes once the free agency period opened up on Saturday but they did fill some depth needs on opening day.

In an effort to replace Ryan Reaves, who was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last week at the NHL Draft, the Blues went out and signed veteran Chris Thorburn to of the Winnipeg Jets -- who was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft -- to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million ($900,000 AAV) along with forward Beau Bennett, formerly of the New Jersey Devils, to a one-year, $650,000 contract and restricted free agent Oskar Sundqvist, acquired in the Reaves trade, to a one-year, $650,000 contract.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Chris Thorburn (left), Beau Bennett (center) and Oskar Sundqvist (right)
all signed contracts with the Blues on Saturday.

Thorburn is 34, or four years younger than Reaves, is listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and has spent 10 of his 12 seasons with the Jets franchise, including four with the Atlanta Thrashers before they relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.

Thorburn played in 64 games for the Jets last season and had three goals and one assist. For his career spanning 750 games, Thorburn has 52 goals and 75 assists, including and 908 penalty minutes.

It's been an injury-riddled career for the 25-year-old Bennett, who did play in a career-high 65 games last season for the Devils and had eight goals and 11 assists, which were career-highs in goals, assists and points.

A former first-round pick with the Penguins, Bennett is expected to compete for a bottom-six role and likely signals the end of Scottie Upshall's time in St. Louis. 

Bennett, the 20th pick in 2010, is 6-2 ad 195 pounds who was part of the Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2016; he has 24 goals and 40 assists in 194 career games.

The 23-year-old Sundqvist played in 63 games for the Penguins' American Hockey League squad, Scranton Wilkes-Barre and Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Sundqvist will compete for a role with the Blues this season.

Earlier in the week, the Blues signed restricted free agent Magnus Paajarvi, who scored the series-clinching overtime goal in the first round against the Minnesota Wild in Game 5, to a one-year, $800,000 contract.