Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blues finalize deals with Shattenkirk, Berglund

Defenseman gets four-year, $17 million contract, Berglund signs one-year deal

By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- One player was seeking long-term security and financial terms, the other opted for a one-year deal to prove himself for a bigger contract next summer.

The Blues locked up two key pieces of their future Wednesday.

After announcing they reached agreement on a one-year, $3.25 million contract with center Patrik Berglund, the Blues announced they also agreed to terms with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year contract worth $17 million.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will be in the fold with the Blues for the
next four seasons after signing a $17 million contract Wednesday.

Shattenkirk, 24, who along with restricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo were the two biggest names the Blues were looking to lock up this summer, finished his third season in the League with five goals and 18 points in 48 games. He will average $4.25 million per season after averaging $875,000 the last three seasons.

Shattenkirk was acquired by the Blues in a February 2011 trade with the Colorado Avalanche that also brought forward Chris Stewart in exchange for former No. 1 overall pick of 2006, defenseman Erik Johnson. Shattenkirk, the 14th pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, has 23 goals and 109 points in 201 career games.

Berglund, 25, who was second on the Blues last season in goals (17) behind Stewart (18), chose a one-year deal rather than a long-term contract in hopes of parlaying a solid 2013-14 season into a bigger deal next summer, when the Swede will be a restricted free agent again.

"When I talked to Patrik and his agent (Peter Wallen), we talked about different lengths and Patrik felt that a one-year deal was something he was most comfortable with," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said via conference call Wednesday before announcing the Shattenkirk deal. "I think that he believes that he wanted to come back and have a very good season and take his game to another level. He wanted to put the focus on this year and put his best foot forward. I was very impressed by that thought process. In today's game, when everybody wants term, Patrik was a player that said, 'You know what, I'd rather just come back on a one-year deal and prove to myself and to the League where I stand.'"

Armstrong and the Blues have handed out one-year deals to their pending restricted free agents before. They did so with forward T.J. Oshie for the 2011-12 season at $2.35 million. He went out and had a career year in goals (19), assists (35) and points (54) and was able to get a five-year, $20.875 million contract. Stewart got the same treatment last season, signing for $3 million. He then led the Blues in goals and points (36), and as a restricted free agent and is looking for a similar reward.

"We're more open to discussing some term with Chris now," Armstrong said. "We're in conversations with all these players. We don't want to get into greater detail, but at the end of the day, he was our leading scorer. And you look at his numbers over his career, I think the next challenge for Chris is to smooth out the edges, meaning becoming a consistent player, not only on a year-to-year basis but on a nightly or a weekly basis.

"When you put all our numbers together, he led the St. Louis Blues in goal-scoring and points. We don't lose sight of that either."

Armstrong added that once the term and dollars match up to their players they resign, there will be a better idea of what's next on the ledger.

"The term has to equal out the dollars also," Armstrong said. "We're in a very good space with Patrik signed now and with the other contracts we have, we have a lot of flexibility with the NHL salary cap and also our internal budget. (Blues owner) Tom (Stillman) and the ownership group have been very supportive of us adding a player like Jay Bouwmeester and (Jordan) Leopold last year, especially knowing that Bouwmeester was going to be $6.6 million this year.

"We understand our internal salary structure is going up. With that goes the expectations of our team, too, which excites me. We want to be viewed as a team that has expectations to win."

 
Berglund, who had 25 points in 48 games in 2012-13, now looks to benefit entering his sixth season.

"I think that Patrik's entering that prime of his career right now, so if he was looking to go longer, we would have looked to see if there was common ground there," Armstrong said. "The good thing for us and for Patrik is that he can come back, he's on a one-year deal and we'll be back at this spot again next year as a restricted free agent. If both parties are willing, we can go with a long-term deal then.

"I start these by asking the player what's important to them. There's a number of things that go in there."
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Patrik Berglund (right) opted for a one-year contract instead of a long-term
deal now. he will make $3.25 million in 2013-14.

The Blues still have work to do with other restricted free agents. At the top of the list are Pietrangelo along with Stewart, defenseman Kris Russell and goalie Jake Allen.

"We're having constant communication," Armstrong said on the progress with the others. "I sort of think of myself as [Blues television analyst Darren Pang] on these things. John Kelly gives the play-by-play, I do the analysis after the fact.

"When there's something to be talked about, I'll talk about it. Other than that, all these guys are fluid and we hope to get them all signed as soon as possible. It could take a while or it could become very quickly."

With Berglund signing a one-year contract, there's the possibility it could open some doors for the Blues' pursuit of unrestricted free agents, but there will be a clearer picture once their players are taken care of first.

"It doesn't really affect anything," Armstrong said. "This was a heavy summer for us as far as having five players up and four players that are huge components of our team in Shattenkirk and Petro on the back end, with Kris Russell also needing a contract, and then you have Bergy and Stewy.

"A one-year deal (with Berglund) is going to be good. It's obviously good for both sides. I would imagine the other guys will try to get a little bit more term, two or more years, but at the end of the day, they all can opt for one-year deals ... you never know. I think this was more Patrik's feeling than being pushed at it by the team."

There's been early word that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock would like to try Berglund out at wing.

 
"I've always seen him as a centerman myself," Armstrong said of Berglund. "Ken is the one that says he might have success on the wing. I view him as a centerman. I've only seen him play the center position. I think that Patrik has the ability to be a consistent 50-point player. I think if we take out his season last year, I think he was on pace for 29 or 30 goals. In a league that's difficult to score, if he can become a 30-goal scorer on a consistent basis, that would be good for us. But as a centerman, you'd like to see the assists get a little higher. Part of that has to be the guys on his wing scoring, too. I view him as a centerman, but ultimately that's Ken's decision on Patrik and what's best for him."

Armstrong talked about the potential of signing free agents, including those who will be part of compliance buyouts. Philadelphia Flyers center Daniel Briere, who has been linked as a good fit for the Blues moving forward, will become a compliance buyout of the final two years of his contract.

"We're going to wait and let the pool fill up and then take a look at all the possible ways to improve our team," Armstrong said.

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