Friday, August 2, 2013

Blues ink another RFA to contract

Newly acquired Magnus Paajarvi gets two-year deal worth $2.4 million

ST. LOUIS -- When the Blues traded away David Perron for winger Magnus Paajarvi, the Swede was not only excited to be joining his new team but it was the 22-year-old's wish to get a contract extension as soon as possible.

The Blues obtained Paajarvi and a 2014 second-round pick from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Perron on July 10 and it was Paajarvi's wish to get a contract done as soon as possible.

(Getty Images)
Magnus Paajarvi (91), who signed a two-year deal Friday, was acquired
July 10 that sent David Perron to Edmonton.
It took nearly a month but the Blues have another restricted free agent under contract for two years after signing Paajarvi to a two-year contract worth $2.4 million, with an annual average value of $1.2 million.

Paajarvi, who had nine goals and 16 points for the Oilers in 46 games last season, was the 10th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft by the Oilers, where he scored 26 goals and had 58 points in 163 career games.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound left wing is expected to compete with fellow Swede Patrik Berglund on the same line when camp opens in September. He becomes the sixth restricted free agent to sign a new contract and 11th free agent the Blues have added in a busy summer for general manager Doug Armstrong.

"We wanted to add a player that we think fits into our organization where we are today and where we are moving forward," Armstrong said after making the deal. "To get a young player that has obviously been highly thought of in his draft year and come over to North America, has done his apprenticeship in the American Hockey League and we think the future ... he's just starting to enter the real good part of his career at 22 and we have his rights now for the next four years, which is important for us. We just think he adds an element to our team that we don't have."

That element includes size and speed, which should benefit a player like Berglund, who had good chemistry playing alongside Paajarvi at the 2011 World Championships for Sweden.

"Him and Berglund had great chemistry together, two big guys that hung onto the puck," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock recently said about Paajarvi. "It's a month-long competition so how do you know? But all I know is the two guys held onto the puck. Nobody could get the puck away from them and they were hard guys to play against. You've got two 6-foot-4 guys out there grabbing the puck and hanging onto it. They're hard to play against.

"To me, Magnus is just starting to understand what it takes to play as a good player in the National Hockey League. I think he's just starting to become serious about his craft and that's a good thing for us."

When the trade was made, Paajarvi said regarding a new contract: "I want the deal to come as quickly as possible. I'm sure there are details that have to be worked out there as well, but it would be nice."

He also expressed his desire to play with his new team.

"I see what I feel when I play against them. They're a big, strong team," Paajarvi said of the Blues. "They go both ways really hard. They back-check hard and they go forward hard. They're a heavy team, good goaltending and obviously I know the Swedes there with Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen. They're really really great guys on and off the ice. That's my first thoughts."

Hitchcock said he watched a lot of Edmonton's games involving Paajarvi, particularly those against the Blues, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings ... big, strong teams that play a heavy game. Hitchcock liked what he saw when Paajarvi played with the talented Sam Gagner on the Oilers' third line.

(Getty Images)
Magnus Paajarvi (91) was a restricted free agent but agreed to a two-year,
$2.4 million contract with the Blues Friday.
"He looks like a player that's just starting to take his career seriously," Hitchcock said. "He's getting back from relying on just on his athletic ability and now he's starting to play with an identity. For me, the last 20 games when he played with Gagner ... what he did was, he play with Gagner against top players, and then he played with Gagner killing penalties. So they found this third-line identity for that line, and then he really started to play. His scoring chances didn't diminish. His scoring chances increased because he was getting more odd-man rushes and he started to play with an edge. That's the area we want him to carry forward. The way he played in the last 20 games is what we're going to expect from him."

Along with Paajarvi, the other restricted free agents to sign include Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, Berglund, Jake Allen and Ian Cole. Unrestricted free agents to sign on with the Blues include Derek Roy, Jordan Leopold, Maxim Lapierre, Adam Cracknell and Keith Aucoin. Throw in Jay Bouwmeester's extension (he had one year remaining on his contract) and that makes 12 players in total to sign.

The Blues' lone remaining free agent is defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who's restricted but a new deal doesn't appear on the horizon. However, Armstrong continues to insist that one will be forthcoming at some point.

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