Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blues to bring in Havlat, Zubrus on professional tryouts

Veteran forwards to receive 10-day window to earn contracts in light of injuries

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong has been a busy working the phones in light of the recent rash of injuries for the Blues, particularly at the forward position.

Other teams have inquired about the possibility of talking trade with the Blues' general manager, who opted to go in a different direction -- for the time being.

The Blues will bring in another pair of veterans in Martin Havlat and Dainius Zubrus on professional tryouts to help alleviate some of the shortcomings at the forward position with long-term injuries to Paul Stastny (foot), Jaden Schwartz (ankle) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder).
(Wire photo)
Martin Havlat has 593 points in 788 regular season
games, most recently with the New Jersey Devils.

Havlat and Zubrus, who have combined to play 2,031 career regular season games, last played for the New Jersey Devils last season.

Havlat was with the Florida Panthers on a PTO but was not signed; Zubrus has been working out at the Devils' training facilities hoping to find a spot.

Both are expected to be in St. Louis on Wednesday and will have a 10-day window to try and earn a contract moving forward.

"The way that it works is they'll be executed tomorrow and we'll have 10 days to look at them, they have 10 days to look at us also," Armstrong said. "The reason being, we have 13 (forwards) here now, and three of those players don't combine for 100 games total in the NHL. I'm comfortable with our group right now. It's planning for the best and hoping there's no more injuries. We're hoping for the best and planning for the worst. The next wave of injuries we get could be worrisome. We want to make sure we're expanding all of our resources to make sure we have enough depth. On short-term injuries, you're very comfortable with your depth at your American (Hockey) League system in your own organization, but having Schwartz and Berglund out until likely until the All-Star Game or later and Stastny not back until December, it made it something like a low-risk, high-return. We've been looking at a few different players. These are two guys we focused in on."

Havlat, 34, spent last season with the New Jersey Devils, where he had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 40 regular season games. 

The 6-foot-2, 209-pound left wing was originally drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the 1999 NHL Draft and went on to be named to the 2000-01 NHL All-Rookie Team in his first season. 

Overall, Havlat  has appeared in 14 seasons, including stints with the Senators, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and Devils.  A 2006-07 All-Star, Havlat played in 788 games, accumulating 593 points (241 goals, 352 assists). The Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic native has 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) in 75 career postseason games. 

"Marty's a player that came into the league as a top offensive player and really hasn't played to that level the last couple years but he does have the skating ability and size," Armstrong said. "He's a guy that can play in your top nine and in your top six on a lot of nights now. ... He's at a point now, went to Florida, I talked to people in Florida, had a really good training camp there, close to talking about singing him." 

Zubrus, 37, spent last season with the Devils, where he posted 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 74 regular season games.

Originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 1996 NHL Draft, the Elektrenai, Lithuania native is a veteran of 18 seasons, including stints with the Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Devils. The 6-5, 225-pound forward has 584 points (225 goals, 359 assists) in 1,243 games and 35 points (11 goals, 24 assists) in 92 career postseason games.  

"Zubrus is a big body, can play center or left wing to help us down on the back end of the group if necessary," Armstrong said. "Two different styles of players; we'll decide which one fits best or if both fit, may need both or a couple more in five more games."

The Blues have reportedly received offers for some of their defensemen. Carl Gunnarsson's name has been reported to be among those asked about, but in light of Kevin Shattenkirk's recent lower-body injury, perhaps the Blues are balking at offering up any of their defenseman at the moment as well as not making any knee-jerk reaction to a trade for a short-term fix that could produce long-term problems.

"If we're going to make trades, we want to do something not just for a short term fix and then create a hole for later on," Armstrong said. "I think any time you make a trade, you're looking for something that's going to stand the test of time. Right now, its sort of a rob Peter to pay Paul. You move from area of depth and then you get two injuries and that's an area of weakness. 

"We're going to explore everything obviously as move forward, but this seemed like the path of least resistance as far as risk was concerned."

The Blues have already gone down the avenue of PTO's with Scott Gomez and Scottie Upshall, who earned contracts and are playing pivotal minutes now.

"You get guys like (Gomez) and Upshall, you feel good for them because they're guys that came here with no promises and earned the right to play and I think that's good and that's what we're hoping with Havlat and Zubrus," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "These are real pros, they've been good players. We don't need them to save us, we just need them to help us. There's a real opportunity for those guys here, too. 

"It's probably going to be a little uncomfortable for guys because we've got 14-15 guys around here on the forward lines, but we also got them here for a long time. There's nobody coming into the lineup in the next couple weeks. This is going to be our lineup for the next 5-6 weeks at least, and hopefully these guys can come in and look like they can help us and give us some good minutes."
(Wire photo)
Dainius Zubrus comes to St. Louis on a PTO looking to earn a
contract with the Blues.

Some on the outside may say why not give the younger players groomed in the system the opportunity to grab more responsibilities? Players like Robby Fabbri, Ty Rattie, Magnus Paajarvi and Ivan Barbashev down in Chicago, among others.

"We'll monitor that team very closely and then we'll be able to compare apples to apples," Armstrong said of the Wolves. "There's some really good depth players down there. (Jordan) Caron is down there with experience. What we're trying to do is maximize our abilities. By bringing these guys in on tryouts, it doesn't disrupt our American League right now.

"... Rattie's going to get his opportunity, there's no question. Robby Fabbri's only played one NHL game and everyone wants to anoint him as the second coming. I think we all have to tab our brakes on some of these guys and find out how good they really are. If they pass the test, that's great; if they don't, we want to have some quality replacements."

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