Friday, May 29, 2015

Report: Sobotka to remain in KHL

According to Avangard Omsk president, forward will play for club in 2015-16

ST. LOUIS -- According to a report in a Russian website, Vladimir Sobotka has decided to play a second season in the Kontinental Hockey League. has reported that Sobotka has informed KHL club Avangard Omsk that he will return for the 2015-16 season.

Sobotka, who signed a reported three-year contract worth $12 million, had a window that extended to the end of May that allowed him to vacate his contract and return to the NHL and back to the Blues, who own his rights as a restricted free agent for one season. 

The report has not been confirmed by Sobotka, his agent Petr Svoboda or the Blues and general manager Doug Armstrong.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
According to a Russian report, Vladimir Sobotka
has decided to return to the KHL for 2015-16.

"Yesterday we had a conversation with Vladimir Sobotka, and we agreed that he is a player of our club for another season," said Vladimir Shalaev, the club's president, according to the report. "... Vladimir said that he likes to play in our team. ... He understands that he has become one of the leaders of the team."

Sobotka, 27, left the Blues last summer in a contract dispute after he became a RFA. He was asking the Blues roughly $3 million on a new contract but was awarded just north of $2.7 million by an arbitrator. 

If and when Sobotka, who had 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 2013-14 for the Blues, returns to the NHL, he owes the Blues one year of service and Armstrong has maintained the stance that he will play here when and if he returns.

Armstrong, on a visit to the Czech Republic for the World Championships earlier in the month, spoke with Sobotka's agent regarding the Blues' interest of his return. 

Earlier this week when announcing the one-year contract extension of Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Armstrong said there was nothing new to report.

"It's his call," Armstrong said of Sobotka, who had 40 points (29 assists) in 57 regular season games for Avangard this past season. "I talked to his representative in Prague when I was there. I just said, 'We'd love to have him back in the NHL.' He's coming back through St. Louis whether it's this year, next year or in four or five years. If he wants to come back in the NHL, he'll waltz through here at some point."

There was speculation Sobotka may want to return to the NHL in the aftermath of fall of the RUB (Russian Ruble). But reportedly, Sobotka has been guaranteed that he'll make in excess of $4 million once again if he returned to the club. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blues bring Hitchcock back for one season

Coach will return for 2015-16 season

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues will turn back to a familiar face and voice.

There never seemed like a doubt whether Ken Hitchcock would return to the Blues for a fifth season to be their head coach.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have agreed to a one-year contract extension with Hitchcock.

Hitchcock's current contract was set to run through June 30.
Ken Hitchcock

Hitchcock and general manager Doug Armstrong took time after the season to reflect on certain issues, but in conclusion, both are comfortable with one another and both seem fine with a one-year extension.

"There wasn't a checklist of things," Armstrong said. "When you have a relationship with someone for 20 years, I don't want to say it's like a marriage but it's like a marriage (Hitchcock chimed in, saying "it's a bad one."). We just sat down and we talked. We talked about the season, we talked about the playoffs, we talked about personnel. 

"I just had to make sure that the passion level that's going to be necessary in November, December, January, February ... the dog days of the season that Ken still had that passion. I didn't want him to come back and feel that he was coming back out of anger and disappointment. I wanted him to come back out of excitement and energy. When we talked, I felt that. I felt that talking to him and I felt that talking to members of his staff that there's a real excitement in getting back to work here." 

Hitchcock, 63, has coached the Blues the past four seasons and aside from the lockout season of 2012-13, the Blues have finished with 100-plus points in each season, including 109 this past season.

Hitchcock, who is 175-79-27 in the regular season with the Blues and fourth on the all-time ins list with 708, is just 10-17 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in St. Louis, including three straight first round exits with home ice advantage. The Blues have lost four consecutive playoff series going back to 2012 when they defeated the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round.

"This was a long process for me," Hitchcock said. "... It was very disappointing in losing, especially the leadup to it when we were on top of our game and having the ability to process that and go through it here in the last three weeks, it's given me some time to detox. Today was the first day we started preparing for next season. It was an exciting day for me. I'm really proud to be able to coach this hockey club again; I'm really proud the staff is back together. 

"This is unfinished business for me. I don't want to coach to coach; I want to coach to win. I couldn't find a better spot than to show up here and coach this hockey club. This is a really good team trying to become a great team. I think I have the tools and the expertise to help them along the way. I agree with Doug 100 percent that this is going to be one big challenge because the four teams that were in it a year ago that were out, they're not going to be taking it very lightly; they're going to be pushing. It's going to be the hardest job we've ever had to get into the playoffs. I think both of us recognize that."

Hitchcock's status has been in limbo since the Blues were eliminated by the Minnesota Wild in six games. The Blues have lost in the first round in six games in each of the past three seasons.

The Blues were granted permission by the Detroit Red Wings to talk to Mike Babcock, whose contract was set to expire June 30; however, Babcock signed an eight-year contract worth a reported $50 million on May 20 to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Hitchcock and Babcock are close friends.

"You can't help but not do that," Hitchcock said when asked about following the outside reports, when Armstrong joked, "I was sending them to him."

"I don't care," Hitchcock said. "The reason I don't care if that we have a relationship where we can tell each other pretty much anything and there's no consequences. I know one thing, [Armstrong] keeps me informed on everything. Some of it I don't want to hear sometimes, but it's information that's necessary."

After the season, Hitchcock said he needed time to reflect on the past season and reflect on whether he would return or not. 

Hitchcock was named Blues coach on Nov. 7, 2011, replacing Davis Payne, who is currently an assistant on Darryl Sutter's staff with the Los Angeles Kings.

"I couldn't find a better place to coach; I couldn't find a better operation," Hitchcock said. "Doug and I have been together for a very long period of time. We've got great communication and the ability to get this team back to the playoffs and back into that hunt again is first and foremost in both of our minds." 

Hitchcock coached the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup championship in 1999 and returned to the Cup Final in 2000. He has also coached the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets for four seasons each.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blues sign Brodeur to be assistant general manager

NHL's all-time winningest goalie gets three-year contract 
after retiring, joining staff as senior advisor to GM Doug Armstrong

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL's winningest goalie has decided to make St. Louis his permanent home for at least the next three seasons.

Martin Brodeur, who retired from the NHL with the most regular season wins (691), shutouts (125), games played (1,266) and minutes played (74,438) and is likely a first ballot Hall of Famer, joined the Blues' front office as a senior advisor to general manager Doug Armstrong in January. On Wednesday, Brodeur signed a three-year contract to be the team's assistant GM.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Martin Brodeur will remain with the Blues organization after signing a
three-year contract to be the assistant general manager,

Brodeur, whose prestigious career ended with the Blues on Jan. 29 after he initially signed a one-year contract on Dec. 2 following the knee sprain to Brian Elliott, immediately joined the Blues' front office.

The 43-year-old Montreal native played 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils before joining the Blues as a free agent. He played in seven games with St. Louis, which included a 16-save shutout against the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 29, and was 3-3-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .899 save percentage before announcing his retirement.

Brodeur immediately jumped into the hockey operations aspect of the organization, often traveling with the club and taking part in all activities but he was on in a part-time role.

Armstrong said following a first round playoff exit against the Minnesota Wild that the Blues would welcome Brodeur back in a more prominent role if something was available.

Brodeur desired a more prominent role and got it.

"We need him to take a bigger chunk of what we're doing," Armstrong said of Brodeur. "Having a lot of part-time guys around isn't healthy. It worked this year; I don't think it's going to work moving forward, but I'm not saying that if there's a full-time position that we can work out, that I wouldn't want him back here. 

"I worked with Steve Yzerman at Hockey Canada events. Probably the most humble superstar I've ever met until I met Marty Brodeur. He's been great to have around. I'm a better manager for working with him."

There was talk that Brodeur could return and rejoin the Devils organization after this season with the Blues, but with New Jersey's recent hiring of GM Ray Shero to replace Lou Lamoriello, the team's longtime GM who will remain the team's president of hockey operations, there was no guarantee Brodeur would have a job awaiting him in New Jersey.

The Blues did all they can to make Brodeur's stay in St. Louis as smooth as can be.

"I think (Brodeur) really enjoyed the freedom that he had this year with our group, but part-time jobs are only good for so long," Armstrong said.

Brodeur ranks first in starts (204) and shutouts (24) and second in wins (113) in the postseason. He appeared in 10 NHL All-Star Games and led the NHL in wins nine times, shutouts five times and games played six times, including appearing in 70 or more games in 10 consecutive seasons from 1997-98 to 2007-08. Brodeur won the Jennings Trophy five times (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004 and 2010) and Vezina Trophy four times (2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008).

Brodeur was a Stanley Cup champion with the Devils three times (1995, 2000 and 2003) and two-time gold medalist at the Winter Olympics (2002 and 2010) with Canada.