Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blues say goodbye to GM after 13 seasons

Pleau steps aside, will remain with club
in some capacity; Armstrong takes over as GM

ST. LOUIS -- Larry Pleau's first transaction as general manager of the Blues came with little or no fanfare.

However, the initial Pleau stamp that brought the Blues defenseman Alexander Godynyuk -- who never wore the Bluenote -- and a 1998 sixth-round pick from Hartford for winger Steve Leach was the first of countless free agent signings, trades, firings and other dealings that challenged Pleau as Blues GM.

But after 13 seasons, Pleau will not be a part of those dealings directly on a regular basis anymore. A new voice will take the place of one that has been a trademark for the Blues since 1997.

The 63-year-old Pleau, the third-longest tenured GM in the National Hockey League behind New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello and Buffalo's Darcy Regier, steped down from his position as Senior Vice President and GM Wednesday. The move has been in the works for some time.

Pleau succeeded Ron Caron on June 9, 1997, becoming the 10th GM in franchise history. Doug Armstrong, the team's vice president of player personnel the last two seasons, officially takes over as GM beginning today.

"It's kind of sad, there's no doubt about it because you've been there for a long time," said Pleau, who saw the Blues win the Presidents' Trophy following the 1999-2000 season and make it to the Western Conference final in 2001. "But we did it for the right things. It's going to give me a lot more time with (his wife) Wendy.

"I've got no complaints, 13 years here, it was a great run," Pleau said.

There have been many transactions that Pleau has made where he either had to absorb the fans' wrath or basked in their approval. The fluxiating mood swings by fans comes with the territory.

There have been memorable deals, such as the signings of Scott Young, Dallas Drake and Barret Jackman along with big-names that came to the Blues in trades: Scott Mellanby, Doug Weight, and Keith Tkachuk to name a few. He also orchestrated trades that seemed insignificant at the time but were crucial for the future that brought the Blues back vital draft picks, a couple that turned into Lee Stempniak and David Backes.

Pleau even brought back Blues radio color analyst Kelly Chase to the franchise via trade, a popular move at the time.

But there were also the unpopular moves, ones where fans were flummoxed to say the least.

There was the trade of popular goalie Grant Fuhr, the firing of coach Joel Quenneville, who recently won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Chicago Blackhawks, allowing Brett Hull to leave as a free agent, which still has some fans stewing and the one Blues fans will never forget: the trade of Chris Pronger to Edmonton that brought Eric Brewer to St. Louis that goes down as one of the, if not most, egregious trades in Blues history.

Unfortunately, Pleau was and is often still seen as the villain of the Pronger trade. In essence, Pleau was forced to capitulate under the ownership of Bill Laurie despite the GM's resistance.

But Pleau was able to work through the PR nightmare and helped a new ownership group, led by Dave Checketts and team president John Davidson, begin to lay a new foundation for Blues hockey moving forward.

"Larry has had one of the most accomplished careers in the history of hockey," said Checketts, who worked with Pleau while the two were in New York together. "He is one of the main reasons this franchise is poised for great success and I am grateful that he will remain with us so we can enjoy the fruits of his labor together going forward."

Pleau signed a two-year extension in 2008 despite health issues with wife Wendy, which turned out to be cancer.

There's no doubt Pleau can still make a difference on the job, but growing concerns over his wife's health was the primary reason for the decision at that time. And even though Wendy Pleau is in remission today, the opportunity to spend more time with his wife and eventually become more of a grandfather to three grandchildren played into effect.

"She still has things she's dealing with, but from a year ago, it's a 100-, 200-degree turn ... just a huge reversal," Pleau said of his wife. "It has a lot to do with everyone around here, the team and the fans, all the support. Without that, she couldn't do what she was doing."

The Blues came close a couple times to competing for the Stanley Cup during Pleau's tenure, but they were shocked in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs in 2000, losing a seven-game series against No. 8 San Jose and then falling to Colorado in five games in the Western Conference final in 2001.

They haven't come close since.

"You just would have liked to have won the Cup," Pleau said.

Pleau will not ride off into the sunset, though. He will remain with the Blues in some capacity yet to be determined. Pleau's made it a smooth transition for Armstrong, who spent 17 seasons in the Dallas Stars organization -- the last six as the Stars' GM. He's open to whatever role he may play going forward.

"Whatever the involvement is, I'm looking forward to it," Pleau said. "We're going to stay in St. Louis for a while anyway, and I would love to be able to stay involved."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blues select four more forwards on second day of draft

Also make trade with Bruins to acquire young center Sobotka

Maybe it wasn't the intention, but the Blues sure made it known that the forward position was an area they wanted to replenish in their minor league system at this weekend's NHL Draft.

After selecting forwards Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko with a pair of first-round picks Friday night, the Blues used four of their five draft picks to select forwards as well, making it a grand total of six forwards and one defenseman drafted at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, which concluded Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

At the conclusion of the draft, the Blues also announced they acquired center Vladimir Sobotka from the Boston Bruins for defensive prospect and Massachussetts native David Warsofsky.

The Blues picked Swedish forward Sebastian Wannstrom with their second-round selection (No. 44), forward Max Gardiner with their third-round pick (No. 74), Finnish defenseman Jani Hakanpaa with their fourth-round pick (No. 104), forward Cody Beach with their fifth-round selection (No. 134) and left winger Stephen MacAuley with their sixth-round pick (No. 164). The Blues had no seventh-round picks.

"We didn't jump defensemen to get to the forwards," said Blues' Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen, who conducted his last draft with the Blues this weekend. "That's the way our list was and that's the same thing I say about our nationalities every year. ... You don't jump the list because you think you have too many Europeans, too many forwards or too many (defensemen). You've just got to try and take the best player available."

Wannstrom is a 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward who scored 30 goals and added 57 points in 35 games last season With Brynas of the Swedish Junior Elite League but was scoreless in 18 games when he made the jump to the Swedish Elite League.

The 6-3, 176-pound Gardiner, whose older brother Jake was drafted 17th overall in 2008 by the Anaheim Ducks, played last season at Minnetonka (Minn.) High School. Bound for the University of Minnesota in the fall, Gardiner scored 17 goals and added 43 points while aiding his high school team to the state championship game. He missed eight games because of a broken wrist but is healed now.

"I'd like to say I'm a power forward," Gardiner said. "I like to mix it up, use my body to my advantage. I think I've got pretty good vision and hands for a big guy.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be a Gopher. I watched the Gophers growing up. They've been a good hockey program. ... Hopefully, we'll have some success there over the next few years."

Hakanpaa is a big defenseman and checks in at 6-4, 211 who tallied two goals and 14 points in 23 games with K-Vantaa of the Finnish Junior League a year ago. He also represented Finland in winning a bronze medal at the Under-18 World Junior Championships.

Beach, the younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kyle Beach, is a big forward at 6-5 but more in the mold of a Patrik Berglund at 180 pounds. Beach played last season for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League and scored three goals and 14 points to go with 157 penalty minutes in 51 games.

The 18-year-old Macauley, at 6-1 and 175, scored eight goals and added 21 points in 56 games for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

The 5-10, 183-pound Sobotka, 22, comes to the Blues after spending the previous three seasons in the Bruins organization.

"I think our job is always to try and improve our team," said incoming Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who officially takes over for retiring Larry Pleau on July 1. "You certainly have a relationship with the players when you draft them, but our responsibility is to the fan base and to the ownership group to put the best team on the ice. Trades are part of our business. It's usually not a reflection on how you personally feel about someone. It's just how you're going to improve your team."

Sobotka, who played 13 games in Boston's playoff run this past spring, has six goals and 22 points in 134 NHL games, including 10 points in 61 games this past season. The Czech Republic native just completed his entry-level contract and will become a restricted free agent on July 1.

"He's a player that I think's going to fit into our group," Armstrong said. "With Lars (Eller's trade) to Montreal, I think there was a spot there and Vladi's going to have a chance to come in.

"He had surgery at the end of last season on his left shoulder. Our medical people have talked to their medical people and we're very comfortable that by the end of August, he'll be back up and running and getting into light contact and should be available for training camp. There is an injury there that we're well aware of."

The Blues gave up Warsofsky, a Marshfield, Mass. native who they selected in the fourth-round of the 2008 entry draft. Warsofsky played at Boston University and will now have the opportunity to stay at home and live out his NHL dream.

The Blues must now find themselves a replacement for Kekalainen, who will leave and become the President and General Manager of Jokerit HC in his native Finland. But the 43-year-old who joined the Blues in 2002, went out just as had hoped: with a successful run.

"That's exactly what I wanted to do," Kekalainen said. "These guys are great. It's a great way to cap off my last draft."

Blues fill need with selection of two forwards at draft

Team selects center at No. 14, trades former
No. 1 pick to nab Russian winger at No. 16

After dealing away two prospects last week in order to lock up their goalie of the future, the Blues entered Friday's NHL Entry Draft looking to replace a glaring need.

There were two players the Blues had targeted with their first-round pick at No. 14 on Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The problem was, they only had one first-round pick at the time.

Once they completed 50 percent of the equation, incoming general manager Doug Armstrong made an impromptu deal with the Ottawa Senators and the Blues were in business.

Needing to address the forward position, the Blues used the 14th pick to select center Jaden Schwartz and then dealt defensive prospect David Rundblad to the Senators in exchange for Ottawa's first-round pick at No. 16 and used it to select Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

After dealing away Lars Eller and Ian Schwartz to Montreal in order to acquire goalie Jaroslav Halak, the Blues had an agenda heading into the draft and according to team president John Davidson, they came away with more than they bargained for.

"We're very excited about knowing that we had made the trade, losing Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, that we needed to find some forwards," Davidson said. "I can't tell you how happy we are. We targeted both of these players in the draft. We were going to be happy with one and if we could get two, we'd be real happy. Now, we are excited. We are very excited about both players."

Schwartz, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound center, played for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League last season. He tallied 33 goals and 83 points in 60 games, leading the league as a 17-year-old. He was the youngest player since 1982-83 to lead the USHL in scoring.

And with much going on in his life, Schwartz, who turned 18 on Friday, said it was a day to remember.

"It's a very special moment for me and my family," he said. "We didn't know if I was going to get picked in the first round. I didn't know where I was going to go. It's my birthday, so it's a very special gift for me. I couldn't be happier about going to an organization like St. Louis."

Schwartz, who will attend Colorado College in the fall, also has had his mind elsewhere. His older sister Mandi, 22, has gained attention throughout the hockey world recently because of a battle with acute myeloid leukemia and cancer. She's a hockey player at Yale University.

"She's back in Regina (Saskatchewan) right now and also she's got leukemia and she's battling cancer right now," Schwartz said. "She's going to go to Seattle for a bone-marrow transplant pretty soon, so she couldn't make it. ... I just want to say hello to her because I know she's watching. She means a lot to every single one of us. This is for her.

"We're getting closer in finding a match and I know we will with all the support we're getting."

Schwartz was predicted by many publications as a late first-round, early second-round pick, but when he heard his name in the middle of the first round, it was a great feeling.

"There's all these predictions and what people think, but coming in here, I was excited to be here and was hoping for a first-round birthday gift," said Schwartz, whose best friend Brandon Gormley was picked ahead of him at No. 13 by Phoenix. "I'm happy that happened."

Schwartz said his success in the USHL was no fluke.

"I got off to a good start, and I just kept on going from there," he said. "I was comfortable and I got a lot of opportunity there. I didn't expect it, but I'm very happy with the year I had and I'm very excited about it."

Gormley and fellow defenseman Cam Fowler, who were predicted to both go as early as Nos. 4 and 5 in the draft, began to fall down the draft board and nearly fell into the Blues' laps.

But as Director of Amateur Scouting Jarmo Kekalainen said, the Blues had one agenda.

"Our plan coming in here today was to get Schwartz and Tarasenko," said Kekalainen, who is conducting his last draft with the Blues before departing to take over as president and general manager of Jokerit HC in his native Finland.

When the host Los Angeles Kings moved up from 19 to 15 to nab USA Under-18 defenseman Derek Forbert, Armstrong set a plan in motion with fellow GM Bryan Murray to work out a deal.

The Blues wasted little time in selecting the 5-11, 202-pound Tarasenko, who had 13 goals and 11 assists in 42 games with Sibir Novosibirsk of the Russian-affiliated Kontinental Hockey League last season.

"He's a tank," Kekalainen said about Tarasenko. "Great shot, good speed, good hockey sense, strong on the puck. There's not a lot of things not to like about him.

"If his name was Walt Smith, he would have been long gone before 16, at least I think so."

Tarasenko, who has two years remaining on his contract with Sibir Novosibirsk, can be bought out. He's already displayed his willingness to get to North America and the NHL as quick as possible.

"Music to my ears," Davidson said. "We'll see where that goes. We want to be respectful to everybody, including where he's playing and (who) he belongs to. We want to be very respectful to everybody involved."

Tarasenko, who speaks little English, added, "I don't know where I can play next year, but if I can buyout (the) contract (in Russia), I will come to North America. But we will talk about this when I come back to Russia."

Tarasenko cost the Blues Rundblad, the team's first-round pick (No. 17 overall) in last summer's draft.

With a sudden influx of offensive-minded defensemen, the Blues had a glutton on their blue line and even though were high on Rundblad, he was expendable to fit a piece that was needed in the immediate future.

"It's very difficult to fit an Erik Johnson, an (Alex) Pietrangelo and a Rundblad onto your team at the same time," Davidson said. "There's not enough ice. There's not enough power play time. ... We know that in making our goalie trade for Halak, we traded away a very good forward prospect in Lars Eller that we needed to find some forwards."

The Blues will have five picks (Nos. 44, 74, 104, 134 and 164) in rounds 2-7 when the draft commences once again at noon on Saturday. They will have one pick -- barring any other trades -- in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


21 -- vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
22 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
24 -- vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
25 -- at Dallas, 7 p.m.
26 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m.
30 -- vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
2 -- vs. Dallas, 7 p.m.
3 -- at Chicago, 5 p.m.
9 -- vs. Philadelphia, 7 p.m.
11 -- vs. Anaheim, 1 p.m.
14 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
16 -- at Dallas, 7 p.m.
18 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
22 -- vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
23 -- vs. Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
28 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
30 -- vs. Atlanta, 7 p.m.
4 -- vs. San Jose, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Boston, 6 p.m.
7 -- at N.Y. Rangers, 6 p.m.
10 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
11 -- vs. Nashville, 7 p.m.
13 -- at Phoenix, 7 p.m.
15 -- at Colorado, 8 p.m.
17 -- at Detroit, 6 p.m.
19 -- vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m.
20 -- vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m.
24 -- at Nashville, 7 p.m.
26 -- at Dallas, 7:30 p.m.
27 -- vs. Dallas, 7 p.m.
30 -- at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.
1 -- vs. Washington, 7 p.m.
4 -- at Edmonton, 9 p.m.
5 -- at Vancouver, 8 p.m.
9 -- vs. Columbus, 7 p.m.
11 -- vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
15 -- at Detroit, 6 p.m.
16 -- vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
18 -- vs. San Jose, 7 p.m.
20 -- vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m.
21 -- at Atlanta, 6 p.m.
23 -- vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.
26 -- vs. Nashville, 6 p.m.
28 -- vs. Chicago, 7 p.m.
31 -- vs. Phoenix, 7:30 p.m.
2 -- vs. Dallas, 5 p.m.
6 -- at Toronto, 6 p.m.
8 -- vs. N.Y. Rangers, 7 p.m.
10 -- vs. Phoenix, 8 p.m.
12 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.
13 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
15 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
18 -- vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
20 -- vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.
22 -- vs. Columbus, 7 p.m.
24 -- at Colorado, 8:30 p.m.
26 -- at Calgary, 9 p.m.
1 -- vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
4 -- vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Tampa Bay, 2 p.m.
8 -- at Florida, 6:30 p.m.
11 -- vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
12 -- at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
14 -- vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m.
18 -- at Buffalo, 6:30 p.m.
19 -- vs. Anaheim, 7 p.m.
21 -- vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.
24 -- at Vancouver, 9 p.m.
25 -- at Edmonton, 8 p.m.
27 -- at Calgary, 7 p.m.
1 -- vs. Calgary, 7 p.m.
3 -- at Washington, 6 p.m.
5 -- at N.Y. Islanders, 12 p.m.
7 -- vs. Columbus, 8 p.m.
9 -- at Columbus, 6 p.m.
10 -- vs. Montreal, 7 p.m.
12 -- vs. Detroit, 7 p.m.
16 -- at Anaheim, 9 p.m.
17 -- at Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m.
19 -- at San Jose, 9:30 p.m.
22 -- at Phoenix, 9 p.m.
24 -- vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m.
26 -- at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
29 -- vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m.
30 -- at Detroit, 6 p.m.
1 -- vs. Calgary, 7 p.m.
3 -- at Columbus, 4 p.m.
5 -- vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
6 -- at Chicago, 7 p.m.
9 -- vs. Nashville, 7 p.m.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hirsch named Blues goaltending coach

Team also resigns forward D'Agostini

ST. LOUIS -- On Thursday, the Blues anointed a new goaltender to lead them into the future. Friday, they brought in the coach they hope can lend a helping hand.

Former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch was named the Blues' new goaltending coach. The team also signed restricted free agent forward Matt D'Agostini to a reported one-year, $550,000 contract.

Hirsch, 37, is a former goalie that played seven seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Vancouver, Washington and Dallas. He compiled a 4-45-14 record with a 3.13 GAA and .896 save percentage.

Hirsch, rumored for some time to be a candidate for the job, will join his new team on July 1 after completing his obligations as a coach in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. He has been with the Maple Leafs since the 2008-09 season. He replaces Tyler Love, who was not brought back after a brief stint last season when he replaced Rick Wamsley.

Hirsch will work with the Blues' goaltenders in St. Louis and at their AHL affiliate in Peoria. He'll also work with the team's goaltending prospects.

"Corey has tremendous knowledge and experience of the goaltending position," Blues President John Davidson said in a statement. "He has a lot to bring to the organization and all of our goaltenders will benefit having Corey on board."

Hirsch was a member of the NHL all-rookie team in 1996 with Vancouver, when he was 17-14-6. After retiring, he was named as the goaltending consultant for Hockey Canada and was part of their National Junior Team when they won the Gold Medal in 2007 and 2008.

D'Agostini, 23, was acquired by the Blues from Montreal in a trade on March 3 that sent prospect Aaron Palushaj to the Canadiens. D'Agostini would have been a restricted free agent on July 1.

He played seven games with the Blues a season ago and gets an increase of 10 percent over his 2009-10 salary.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blues acquire goaltender Halak from Canadiens for prospects Eller, Schultz

Deal signals end of Chris Mason's two-year tenure in
St. Louis; team also acquires T.J. Hensick from Colorado

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL summer season isn't supposed to kick off for another two weeks. July 1 is when the free agent market opens its doors and the signing frenzy begins along with other player movement.

Someone forgot to tell the Blues that, who made the first big off-season splash Thursday after acquiring goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for center Lars Eller, the team's 2007 first-round draft pick and right wing prospect Ian Schultz. The Blues then announced the acquisition of center T.J. Hensick from Colorado in exchange for minor league center Julian Talbot.

Halak, 25, who can become a restricted free agent on July 1 and is also salary-arbitration eligible, was deemed a savior in Montreal after leading the eighth-seeded Canadiens on an improbable playoff run. The Canadiens upset Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington and Alex Ovechkin and then disposed of Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins before falling to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Final.

Halak, who spent much of the first half of the season splitting time with Carey Price, was 26-13-5 this past season and ranked fourth in the NHL in save percentage (.940), 9th in goals against average (2.40) and was tied for 5th with five shutouts. In his 26 wins this season he had a GAA of 1.68 and a save percentage of .948. Halak was 44-27-6 over the last two seasons in Montreal with a save percentage of .924 and goals-against of 2.59.

The move comes on top of negotiations with Chris Mason, the Blues' No. 1 netminder the past two seasons who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The trade, orchestrated by new general manager Doug Armstrong, was done with a simple phone call Armstrong made to fellow GM Pierre Gauthier of the Canadiens. Both Halak and Price, 22, will become restricted free agents July 1.

"The initial call was just to say we may be in the market for a goaltender," Armstrong said. "We were negotiating with Chris Mason. They had two young goaltenders, and I asked (Gauthier) what direction he was going to go in. He told me he was going to keep Carey and made Jaro available and that spurred the conversation onto the first stage of the assets that he would need back in the call."

Halak, whose season skyrocketed into full bloom following a terrific performance with Slovakia at the Winter Olympics, cost the Blues Schultz, who was St. Louis' third-round pick in 2008 and Eller, the 13th overall pick in 2007 who many in the organization feel will have a terrific NHL career.

"When you make a deal for a player such as Jaroslav, you have to give something up, and we had to wrestle with this," Blues President John Davidson said. "... Lars Eller is going to be a very good player in the National Hockey League. He's got a great personality to go with a skill-set. He's a player that I think fans are going to love to watch play in Montreal. Ian Schultz is a player who plays with all heart, guts and determination. He's one of the captains with his Calgary junior team, he'll drop the gloves, he'll score goals ... he'll do a little of everything.

"This was not an easy trade to put together when you think of the time and effort we put into helping to develop these two players. In turn, we needed to do something here. We had to give to get. It's that simple."

The Blues gave the keys to the car to Halak, who immediately becomes the team's No. 1 goalie in front of veteran Ty Conklin, and took the keys away from Mason, who was under the impression a deal was close to being finalized with the Blues. He was obviously caught off-guard.

"I was pretty shocked," said the 34-year-old Mason, who got a phone call from Armstrong Thursday afternoon. "I thought we were really close to getting a deal done. We had been talking the last couple of weeks, and I felt pretty good about getting a deal done this week. I was really surprised and not in a good way. But you understand it's hockey, and they're going in a different direction, which is out of my control.

"There was a deal to be had, it was just a matter of getting confirmation and getting everything in order. It was delayed a couple of times and now we know the reason why. I'd be lying if I didn't say it was disappointing. I loved being a St. Louis Blue and I thought I was going to continue to be. But that's sports and I'll be playing for another team on July 1."

In the meantime, the Blues will turn the reigns over to the Bratislava, Slovakia native Halak, who was being hailed as the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden among Canadiens fans. He became their most popular player. There were even comparisons and murals portraying Halak as Jesus Christ. That's how much Canadiens fans thought of Halak.

"When I got the news, obviously I was surprised by it," Halak said via conference call from his native Slovakia. "I'm very happy to be a part of a new organization and I'm very excited about a new start.

"I spoke to the new GM in St. Louis and he made me feel welcomed in the new organization. He was very nice to me and I'm very excited I'm in St. Louis. I'm looking forward to the new start and fresh start for me."

Halak, who is 56-34-7 with a 2.62 GAA in three NHL seasons, was selected by Montreal in the ninth round (271st overall) of the 2003 draft. He was 9-9 with a 2.55 GAA and .923 save percentage in the playoffs

"... We decided to go in a different direction," Davidson said. "We've looked at a lot of different people, we've done a lot of homework, we've seen a lot of people play live, we've done a lot of research. And with Doug putting a lot of that research into his phone calls, everything was discussed with Montreal and the discussions were such that the Jaroslav Halak deal was born with the St. Louis Blues. We're very happy about it.

"When you look at Halak and the track record he's already had and the fact that he's only 25 years of age, you can understand why."

According to Halak and agent Alan Walsh, the Canadiens never made a contract offer to keep Halak, and the wheels spun into motion rather quickly once Armstrong got wind that it would be Price that the Canadiens would turn to moving forward.

"I've had a great conversation with the player and his agent and told them how excited we are to have them as part of the Blues family," said Armstrong, who wants to get a deal done as soon as possible. "He falls into the age group there with all our young players. When you look at the defense that we have with (Erik) Johnson and (Alex) Pietrangelo coming in, (Ian) Cole and some of our young forwards that we have with our veteran mix, we feel we've added a young piece that is 25 years old and can sit right in and grow with this team.

"I think he's excited. He's going to a team that's going to use him as a clear-cut No. 1. He's been given that opportunity."

Hensick, 24, was a third-round pick by Colorado in 2005. He has played in 99 NHL games, all with Colorado, during which he notched 11 goals with 24 assists. Hensick was demoted early last season to Lake Erie and was added by the Blues for depth.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2009 top pick signs contract with Blues

Swedish defenseman Rundblad was 17th overall pick last summer


ST. LOUIS -- The Blues continue to place their recent draft picks in the fold.

It's been commonplace past few seasons, and Thursday's signing is par for the course.

The Blues signed 2009 first-round draft pick, defenseman David Rundblad. to an entry-level deal.

Rundblad, 19, has spent the past three seasons with Skelleftea HC of the Swedish Elite League and was the 17th overall pick in last summer's NHL Entry Draft.

"By signing David and adding him to the fold, we continue to keep our blueline depth strong," Blues President John Davidson said in a statement. "We have been impressed with the progress he’s made since we drafted him last year and are looking forward to watching his development towards the NHL."

In 2009-10, the Lycksele, Sweden native played in 47 games for Skelleftea posting 13 points (12 assists) to go along with 14 penalty minutes.

In total, the 6-foot-2, 189-pound defenseman has made 98 appearances for the Skelleftea, accumulating 23 points (22 assists) and 24 penalty minutes.

Rundblad also represented Sweden in both the 2009 and 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships, helping the team capture the Silver Medal in 2009 and Bronze in 2010.

At the 2009 Championship, he posted a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-3 rating in six games while in 2010 he increased production to a goal, four assists and a plus-9 mark in six appearances.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mellanby comes full circle, joins Blues coaching staff

Former Blue, current Vancouver consultant named assistant coach

ST. LOUIS -- The day Scott Mellanby got traded to the Blues in 2001, nobody would have guessed it would turn out to be a never-ending love affair with St. Louis.

Even after Mellanby departed the Blues as a player and finished his career with the Atlanta Thrashers, Mellanby and his family continued to call St. Louis home.

It all came full circle for Mellanby on Tuesday when the Blues named the Montreal, Quebec native an assistant coach to head coach Davis Payne's staff on Tuesday.

Mellanby, who is currently a special consultant with the Vancouver Canucks, a job he has held for the past three seasons, will remain in his current role until July 15.

The former Wisconsin Badger will fill the role that was left when the Blues sent former assistant coach Rick Wamsley to Peoria to become the head coach of the Rivermen. Wamsley has since been fired.

"I think first of all, I'm excited to be in this spot with St. Louis," Mellanby said Tuesday morning. "We made our home here, and it's a special place for us. And I'm really excited about being back with the team. It's coaching -- I'm not playing anymore -- but I really miss the daily ups and downs."

Mellanby spent parts of four seasons (235 games) with the Blues from 2001-2004. He tallied 57 points in 2002-03, the most since the Stanley Cup season playing with the Florida Panthers in 1995-96, where he set career highs in goals (32), assists (38) and points (70). Mellanby played in 1,431 games over his career with five teams and 136 playoff games during 18 seasons.

"I'm excited to add a quality person like Scott to our staff, who was highly respected as a player on and off the ice," Payne said in a statement. "He has great knowledge of the game and will be a valuable addition on our staff."

Mellanby retired following the 2006-07 season with the Thrashers and has been in his current role with the Canucks, but he did much of his work here in St. Louis, including attending many games at Scottrade Center.

"I've went to about 25-30 games a year the last two years," Mellanby said. "I guess I would know the personnel as well as anybody except them."

Maybe that's a reason the Blues chose Mellanby, 43, because of his knowledge of their organization despite being a part of another one. And the former first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers (27th overall) back in 1984 is excited about getting started with the franchise in the city he calls home.

"It's a bit of a gifted opportunity," Mellanby said. "I earned it with my play on the ice, but there are coaches all over the place putting in the time and years to get to the NHL. I'm very thankful for this opportunity. Everybody that knows me knows I'm a worker, and that's how I'll treat this job.

"Two years ago, (the Blues) made the playoffs and I think that set the expectations too high," Mellanby added. "The team progressed (last season), but not making the playoffs made it seem like it was a failure. There's definitely a lot of bright spots and a lot of talent. I think that's the biggest thing, making the playoffs two years ago, as great as it was, it was curse."

Mellanby will be teamed with Brad Shaw and Ray Bennett, as the Blues chose to retain both for the upcoming season.

"I think part of the reason the team and Davis wanted me to come was my experience ... I've been in league a long time," said Mellanby, who played for five different franchises (Philadelphia, Edmonton, Florida, St. Louis and Atlanta. "From the side of helping deal with players, I've been through those battles. I guess I would know personally as well as anybody what to expect.

"One of my strengths as a player, I played pretty much every role there is to play -- first line, fourth line, I scraped a little bit to make my way. I can identify with it all. I ended up being captain and leader, which gives me perspective on that. Some days, you're top players need guidance and some days it's other guys. I want to provide that."

* Prospect inks contract -- The Blues also announced that they have signed forward Jori Lehtera to an entry-level contract.

Lehtera, the Blues' third-round pick (65th overall) in 2008, will play in Russia next season after signing a two-year contract Monday with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL.

Lehtera, 22, a Helsinki, Finland native, led the Finnish National League in points when he tallied 19 goals and 50 assists (69 points) playing for Tappara.

"Jori had an excellent year this past season as he led the entire Finnish League in points," Blues President John Davidson said in a statement. "Our scouts are very high on him and expect him to be a solid NHL player in the future."