Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blues give All-Star Elliott contract extension

Netminder gets two years, $3.6 million, chooses
to remain here instead of test free agency

ST. LOUIS -- By locking up Brian Elliott to a two-year, $3.6-million contract extension on Wednesday, the Blues believe they have their goaltending position solidified -- and they are content with keeping all of them in the fold.

The Blues signed Elliott, who gets $1.7 million next season and $1.9 million in 2013-14 in what has been a resurrection of a career that was unknown as late as the final preseason game.

It's quite a story for a guy who entered last summer without a job, searching for work and now getting job security in mid-season.
(Getty Images)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott will stay in St. Louis at least for two more years
after signing $3.6 million contract extension.

"I wasn't really expecting it because I haven't been approached like that before ... it's always been in the off-season," Elliott said. "I was happy that they wanted me to stay. Whenever you get that, you know that they're impressed with you and your work ethic. I was happy that they did and we came to an agreement that we both felt was a good deal."

Elliott, who is 15-5-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average (second in the NHL) and a .937 save percentage and five shutouts, signed a one-year, two-way contract on July 1 worth $600,000.

With Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in the fold for at least the next two seasons, the Blues feel good about what they have on their team but also at the AHL level with Ben Bishop and Jake Allen.

"We're excited to have the tandem of Jaro and Brian together for the next two seasons," Armstrong said. "Goaltending's such a big part of our game. To know now that we have two goalies that we think are entering the prime of their careers together, to have that partnership together is very important for us.

"For Brian especially, the situation he was in last summer wondering where he was going to play and finding a good home here in St. Louis and doing his job on the ice, I think it's a great story. Now he can settle in and take his career to the next level with our group."

Along with Halak, who is 9-0-3 with a 1.62 goals-against average and .938 save percentage and hasn't lost in regulation since Nov. 22, the Blues are at the top of the league in GAA at 1.95.

"I think it's been obviously, with our record, I think it's been really good," Elliott said. "Whenever you get a couple of guys pushing each other, I think that helps a lot ... you don't get comfortable. I mean, you get comfortable to a point, but you want to stay on your toes the whole time. When you've got a couple of guys back there trying to stay as sharp as possible, that can only be good for your hockey team."

And Blues coach Ken Hitchcock certainly has two guys pushing each other. When he has to go game by game to pick a goalie, it's nice to know there are two reliable guys to choose from.

"He's the perfect example of perseverance, but he's a great model for stay with it," Hitchcock said of Elliott. "... I think the biggest thing Brian did was look in the mirror. It wasn't his work ethic, it wasn't his determination, it wasn't his conditioning. There were some things that had to change in his game. He had to just become more compact in his game and he's done that, he's done it beautifully. He's resurrected a career based on being able to look in the mirror and not feel sorry for himself, and make adjustments.

"Look what's happening right now, the teams that have sharing goaltending duties toward the break, their starters aren't tired and their team is still energized. They're not letting tired goals in and I think it's really helped. That's what's helped us be here, both of our goalies have played with a high level of energy, they haven't made tired puck mistakes and it's kept us energized. We've won a lot of close games because the goalies have been energized to make the right save at the right time."

Elliott did not make the final roster until after the final preseason game on Oct. 1. He was battling with Bishop to be the backup to Halak.
(Getty Images)
Brian Elliott is 15-5-1 with a 1.68 GAA and .937 save percentage. He is
The Blues' lone All-Star this season.

But the 6-foot-3, 204-pound Elliott, who is in his fifth NHL season, has surpassed all expectations. He's allowed the fewset goals (36) and suffered the fewest losses among goalies with 20 starts or more. He's got a 9-1-1 mark at home.

"I'm not only excited for Brian, but I'm also excited about Jaro knowing he's going to have a healthy partner knowing that they can tandem up and try and keep us in the top tandem of the goaltending in the NHL for the next two plus years," Armstrong said. "We have two very good goaltenders that we're confident playing. I think depth and competition is good for an organization. ... I don't see why we won't be in the top third of the league for the next two years as a minimum in that position."

With the season he's having and with impending unrestricted free agency looming this summer, the 26-year-old Elliott chose to remain in St. Louis knowing it will be a tandem and not a chance to go somewhere else and try to become a clear-cut No. 1.

"Things can go the other way, too," Elliott said. "You're basically playing the odds.

"You can say 'what if' you get injured, or the other way, what if you lead the team to a couple playoff wins, you can be even more attractive. But I've learned from experience that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I really like it here and I like the guys and I think it sets up well for my career. After this contract is done, I'll still be probably one of the younger goalies in the league, so it just builds on to the rest of my career."

The Newmarket, Ontario native Elliott is 76-58-17 in his career with the Blues, Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche.

He now has piece of mind.

"Haven't had much time to set in, but again, you don't want to become complacent and think that you're all safe," Elliott said. "You still have to prove yourself every day out there, you deserve to be there."

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