Tuesday, July 19, 2011

D'Agostini eager to prove he's no one-year wonder

Equipped with new contract, forward can fill a number of roles for Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Equipped with a new contract, Matt D'Agostini is geared to join his fellow Blues teammates in fulfilling one common goal.

D'Agostini, 24, doesn't have to worry about his immediate future, with a two-year, $3.3 million deal signed, sealed and delivered. He's had time this summer to allow the reality and financial security to soak in along with focusing on helping the Blues play beyond Game 82.

The Blues have been doing a lot of talking about improving in recent years. The time to have that talk come to fruition is what these players are looking for.

"That was the sense I got even before we broke after the season," D'Agostini said. "And the year they made the playoffs a couple years ago, they got swept in four games in the first round.

"It's enough talk. It's time to put those words into action. We know we have the players, we know we have a good enough team to get it done here and we want to do what's necessary to finally achieve that goal."
Matt D'Agostini has a new contract and new goals for 2011-12.  (Getty Images)

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native was to become a restricted free agent on July 1. And even though the Blues never gave him a qualifying offer -- thus giving D'Agostini the luxury of becoming an unrestricted free agent -- there was an amicable agreement in place before July 1 and leaving here was something D'Agostini never considered.

"That was never really an option," said D'Agostini, who will earn $1.5 million and $1.8 million on his new contract. "I think the whole time we were in talks, we knew we were going to work out something. If not July 1st, right before the deadline there. I was never willing to test the market. St. Louis was always the No. 1 spot."

D'Agostini, who set career highs in goals (21), assists (25) and points (46), proved that if called upon, he can deliver in a top six role. Only David Backes (62), Patrik Berglund (52), Alex Steen (51) and Andy McDonald (50) had more points last season.

The Blues needed scoring once David Perron went down for what turned out to be the rest of the season with a concussion. If Perron isn't ready by the start of the upcoming season, it could very well be that D'Agostini find's himself playing among the Blues' top six. Or in a best-case scenario with a healthy Perron, D'Agostini can provide the Blues with scoring depth playing a third-line role.

"Last year was kind of a breakout year for me," D'Agostini said. "I'm looking to build upon that and help the team in any way that I can.

"I think I proved I can play a top six role, but whatever Doug Armstrong and Payner (Blues coach Davis Payne) ask of me, I'm ready for whatever role I'm given."

But D'Agostini, who's spent his summer training and working out at home in Ontario with a personal trainer, feels like he can build off last year's numbers.

Who's to say he can't reach 25, 30 goals and possibly 60-70 points?

"It was a nice steppingstone for me there (last season)," D'Agostini said. "That was my first year I really got comfortable in the league and saw what I can do. Hopefully the comfort level stays the same and we can put together some wins. With the team success comes all the individual success. Hopefully all the goals will be there just like they were last year."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said the opportunity for D'Agostini will be there once again.

"He's going to have a good opportunity to be a top-nine forward," Armstrong said. "Now, he needs to take advantage of it and make this the starting block for the rest of his NHL career."

The Blues have added some veteran pieces to the mix, giving the team flexibility and more importantly, depth. Adding forwards Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Scott Nichol along with defenseman Kent Huskins gives the team a deeper complexion.

D'Agostini said he's glad to be a part of it.

"We've got a great team, great depth," he said. "We've got everything it takes to be a winner. We've got the leadership and the goaltending and the scoring, the defense and everything else we need. It looks good on paper. We've just got to put everything in action."

D'Agostini, who will be starting his second full season with the Blues and fifth overall (he played in only one game with Montreal in 2007-08), has 35 goals and 71 points in 183 career games. And just like some of the other contracts Armstrong has given to restricted free agents (T.J. Oshie, Perron, Berglund, Erik Johnson), D'Agostini is ready, willing and eager to prove he's deserving of a long-term contract in the future.

"Yeah, I go into next year as another prove-it kind of year and that's a good thing," D'Agostini said. "Sure the security is nice for all players, but that's something you earn over time and I'm willing to do that.

"I'm looking forward to the challenges that will be there. If I can help the team achieve the goals we're striving for, (Individual goals) will work themselves out."

Which is why D'Agostini and his teammates are ready for September and training camp to roll around.

"We're all ready for the season to get going," D'Agostini said. "I know I can't wait."

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