Veteran defenseman gets two-year, $5-million contract;
Blues' search for d-man on hold with impending lockout
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When Carlo Colaiacovo was traded from his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs team to the Blues in 2008, there was an obvious element of the unknown.
But Colaiacovo, 29, would soon settle into his new home and realize that this wouldn't be a bad place to play out the rest of his career.
"Ultimately that was my wish and my hope," Colaiacovo said Friday afternoon.
Carlo Colaiacovo, in a game against Detroit last season, will become a
teammate of the Red Wings' Danny Cleary (11) next season.
Unfortunately for Colaiacovo, the business
side took center stage with his career, and on Friday, he was trading in his Bluenote for the Winged Wheel of Detroit when the veteran unrestricted free agent defenseman officially left St. Louis, signing a two-year contract with the Red Wings for $5 million in total.
Colaiacovo, who was traded to St. Louis along with Alex Steen from Toronto in 2008, has spent the greater part of the last four seasons playing for a Blues team that was near the bottom of the league when the Toronto native got here to now being one of the elite teams after last season's 109-point run.
But after a summer of uncertainty and not knowing whether the Blues had interest in bringing him back, Colaiacovo felt the opportunity to join a Central Division rival in Detroit was too good to pass up.
"It's been a long summer in many parts, contract-wise and the uncertainty of hockey, where I'm going to be next year," said Colaiacovo, who will make $2.15 million this season and $2.85 million in 2013-14. "... At the end of the day, I wasn't really stressing out about it, I wasn't really worried about it because at the end of the day, I knew something was going to work out for me. I'm glad it has.
"It's a team in Detroit that's got Stanley Cup aspirations and a team that competes every year and a team full of world-class players that I'm happy to be a part of. It's a great situation for me."
Colaiacovo, who had 19 points in 64 games last season, averaged 19 minutes playing alongside mainly with rising defenseman and close friend Alex Pietrangelo. He was one of the top remaining free agents available in this 2012 UFA class, and the main reason was he was holding out hope that something in the end could be worked out with the Blues.
"It's been sort of a torn summer, too, because I think deep down inside, my heart was in St. Louis in the fact that I was there for four years through tough times and through great times," Colaiacovo said. "To be part of something great moving forward and to develop friendships and relationships with the people there, you would hope that it would be something you can continue moving forward and be a part of.
"I had a great time in St. Louis. I have nothing bad to say about it. I wish things could have still worked out there, but it's a business, it's a game. People move on, there's changes every year and unfortunately, it was a decision for myself too to move on. I have a lot of great friends and people I'm leaving behind there, but they'll be people I hopefully can still keep in touch with. ... You never know. One day, the opportunity might present itself again (in St. Louis). But right now, my mindset has moved on and the excitement to join the Red Wings is overwhelming right now."
Colaiacovo didn't mention specific teams that became interested in his services, but after talking with his family and fiancee and having a great familiarity of playing against Detroit six times a year, it was a pretty easy choice.
"Being in St. Louis and playing against Detroit, every time we played them, it was like playing an all-star team," Colaiacovo said. "They're a team full of world-class talent. Hopefully joining a team like that will present the opportunity for myself to be a part of that elite group.
"... Detroit was a team that we both targeted as a team if we were to move on. It was a team and a situation that we both wanted to pursue. Obviously St. Louis was a team we were both in favor of and were hoping something could still be worked out, but it didn't seem like the feeling was there. They were a team that looked like they pretty much had their roster set."
Colaiacovo said it will be weird looking down and seeing the Winged Wheel instead of the Bluenote on his chest. He feels like the Blues will be in good hands moving forward.
"Doug Armstrong was a guy I respect a lot, has done a lot for me in my career, really helped me out with a lot of things," Colaiacovo said of the Blues' general manager. "The coaching staff there, Ken Hitchcock and Brad Shaw are two of the great coaches I've had in my career.
Carlo Colaiacovo (left) and Detroit's Johan Franzen (middle) will be
teammates for the Red Wings next season.
"I think they've got a good thing going for them. We're going to be enemies now. But i think the transition will be easy because I'm coming to sort of a similar situation where the coaching staff is here, a team that has aspirations of winning, a team full of talent. It really makes the transition easy."
The Wings were looking for a veteran to replace some of what they will be missing from Nicklas Lidstrom, who retired after last season. But Colaiacovo is by no means comparing himself with the future Hall of Famer.
"I know losing a guy like Lidstrom on defense is a top hole to fill and by no means and I'm going to come in there and be a Nick Lidstrom because Nick Lidstrom is an irreplaceable player," Colaiacovo said. "He's a future Hall of Famer, he's one of the best defensemen to ever play the game. But I think going in there, I can be a good compliment to what they have right now."
Meanwhile for the Blues, the search for a top-tiered left-handed defenseman continues.
Earlier in the summer, Armstrong talked about the Blues having a desire to obtain through trade of free agency a top-four defenseman; one to potentially compliment Pietrangelo.
But with the NHL on the verge of a lockout (set to begin at 11 p.m. Saturday night St. Louis time), talk of acquiring a d-man is on hold and when the Blues do finally return to the ice, there will still be that hole for Armstrong to fill.
"I think we had talked about trying to improve the left side of our defense if possible," Armstrong said last week. "There hasn't been a lot of player movement, quite honestly, since I made the statement I wish I didn't make five months ago. I sort of put ourselves on the clock there. But we believe in the six guys that are here, Ian Cole being one of the six. Bringing in (Taylor) Chorney and (Jeff) Woywitka gives us some depth there."
The Blues did add Chorney and Woywitka over the summer but as Armstrong said, they were brought in for depth purposes. The Blues have Barret Jackman, Kris Russell and Cole on the left side. Cole, a first round pick in 2007, will have his best shot at making the big club out of camp after the Blues had made a pitch for free agent Matt Carle and were mentioned in trade talks for Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester and Phoenix's Keith Yandle.
The price tag on Carle, who signed in Tampa Bay for six years, $33 million, was too high and the asking prices for Bouwmeester and Yandle apparently involves NHL-ready talent. In both teams' cases, that would likely include forwards in the Blues' top core.
Armstrong would prefer to deal draft picks and/or prospects.
"I think that the (new CBA) system will tell us what players will be available, and we're going to wait and react to the systemwhatever it may be," Armstrong said. "If there's player movement because the system changes, then there will be player movement. If not, we have a stock pile of draft picks moving forward (and) we have a stockpile of what we think are good prospects, and we're entering that level now where we believe is our time to take it to the next level. And at some time you have to sacrifice a little bit of the future for today and I think as an organization, that's the area that we'll go to.
"Instead of moving an apple for an orange, taking an NHL player for an NHL player, we might look at getting into future draft picks to try and improve this year's team."