Former Maple Leaf, Canuck must clear
waivers before deal is consummated
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- After days of speculation, Kyle Wellwood is finally a Blue.
Or is he?
On Monday, the Blues signed Wellwood, formerly of Toronto and most recently Vancouver, to a one-year contract for the remainder of the season reportedly at a pro-rated number of $650,000 after the forward was released from his contract with Mytishchi Atlant of the Kontinental Hockey League was terminated.
But the 5-foot-10, 181-pound Wellwood, 27, was placed on waivers Monday morning and teams have until 11 a.m. today to place a claim on him or he officially becomes a member of the Blues.
The Blues tried this a few weeks ago when they brought in and signed Marek Svatos to a similar deal but the former Colorado Avalanche winger, who was also playing in the KHL, was picked up by the Nashville Predators the following day.
"Try it again, I guess," joked Blues forward David Backes.
If Wellwood clears, he instantly gives the Blues an upgrade in a couple areas that they have noticeably been lacking at: winning face-offs and the power play.
Wellwood has 63 goals and 160 points in 338 NHL games in five NHL seasons, the last two with the Canucks.
"Adding pieces to make you a stronger hockey club is always a good thing," Blues coach Davis Payne said without elaborating too much more. "It's a boost, it's a push, it's a pull. Guys have to recognize that. We'll talk about that 24 hours from now."
Wellwood was on the ice Monday morning at the Blues' practice at St. Louis Mills and seems eager to go after his bout in Russia didn't work out too well.
"It's one that I'm trying to forget, but it was an experience," Wellwood said of his KHL experience. "It was fun to go, but I certainly wanted to be back home after about a month.
"They think it's a good fit for me to come in and help them out and make a push here to get a playoff spot. I'm certainly looking forward to playing in the NHL again."
Wellwood last played competitively in the KHL at the beginning of the month and tallied eight points in 25 games with Atlant but said the team informed him that he would not play once the squad changed coaches and was making its playoff push. He eventually got his release from the club.
It was obvious Wellwood was eager to get back to the NHL after going to Phoenix during training camp as a non-roster invitee.
"It's a lot harder to try to come into something in January, but with the circumstances, I'm in," Wellwood said. "It's an odd situation. ... I want to play for the Blues, and I'd be disappointed if I got picked up."
A center by trade, Wellwood will likely be in the lineup tonight when the Blues host the Los Angeles Kings and likely skate with Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund.
But he was brought in to boost a Blues team (21-17-6) that needs a quick infusion.
"He looked pretty good in practice," Backes said. "He was doing a good job on the power play down at the other end. Obviously we can use any help we can from any source. We'll take it and hopefully, it's a piece to the puzzle that rights the ship.
"Good face-off guy, has hands as good as most in the league, better than most in the league. To add that skill, we've got a lot of grit, got a lot of work horses on this team, but he may add that skill element to make a few more plays and cash in a few more of the chances that we create."
The Blues are expected to get back T.J. Oshie (broken ankle) soon but with the lingering uncertainly of post-concussion symptoms for Andy McDonald and David Perron, the Blues have been searching for any means necessary to upgrade.
"We're just constantly looking for offense," Blues President John Davidson said. "He gives us another NHL player. We don't expect miracles, just hope that he can contribute and take the load off guys. Our guys have played a lot of hockey and battled hard, but there's a lot of hockey left.
"We don't know about the three that are injured, Oshie and the two others with concussions. There's no timetable whatsoever. We're trying to find offense and maybe Kyle can come in and help. The same thing with Marek Svatos ... we'll see where it all goes."
Wellwood, who scored 14 goals and 25 points with Vancouver a season ago, was awaiting official clearance from his former club before inking a deal with the Blues.
"The power play hasn't been great the past couple weeks, so they're hoping someone can come in and help that out," Wellwood said. "I'm certainly ready to play. Hopefully, I'm a great fit for them and I can stay for a long time."