Center injured training in Sweden, will be reevaluated
in December; acquisition of Schenn even more important now
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues' acquisition for Brayden Schenn was supposed to fortify their center ice position moving into the 2017-18 season.
The Blues acquired the 25-year-old from the Philadelphia Flyers in a draft-day trade last Friday for a package that included fellow center Jori Lehtera and two first-round picks.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Patrik Berglund (21) will be sidelined until December after dislocating
his left shoulder recently training in Sweden.
But now with the news that the Blues will be without Patrik Berglund until December after it was discovered that the center dislocated his left shoulder while training in Sweden, Schenn's acquisition adds even more meaning to a team in need of another body down the middle of the ice, especially one that provides scoring punch.
The Blues announced on Wednesday that Berglund had successful surgery but will be sidelined for five-plus months, at which time general manager Doug Armstrong said Berglund will be reevaluated.
"We flew him back here on Sunday night, he saw our doctors on Monday and the news was what we thought it might be, a shoulder injury, and a shoulder surgery on Tuesday morning," Armstrong said. "Everything went very well. The doctors and Patrik are happy with the result but with that result comes a timetable. We'll re-evaluate him in early December to see where he's at. We're hoping to get him back sometime in that time frame."
It's the opposite shoulder Berglund injured late in the 2013-14 season. But what it now does is add to the urgency of adding Schenn, who along with Paul Stastny should add a 1-2 punch as the top two centers on the team moving into the season. And it gives the Blues options as to who will round out the position and who will compete for them.
"We'll move someone into the middle now. You could go with Stastny, and then Schenn and then you have an option to put (Vladimir) Sobotka back in there, (Ivan) Barbashev's played in there, the young player we got from Pittsburgh (in the Ryan Reaves trade) is a centerman, (Oskar) Sundqvist, that's the role he can play. We have some internal options. We'll explore those.
"The timing is never great to have an injury but getting him to do that rehab now for a couple months while we're not playing, getting into training camp and giving some of the younger guys a little bit of a look should clear up a little bit of where we're at starting the second half of the season. It doesn't really affect what we're doing free-agency wise because it's a cap system, Patrik counts against our cap on opening day and we expect him back in December, so if we went into (long-term injury) on that day, barring any other injuries, we'd have to shave off whatever amount we're over by December 1st, so we're always looking to see if we can get creative with different ways, but right now, we're talking to some potential free agents but I don't want to get anyone's hopes up that there will be a lot of changes in this roster."
Coach Mike Yeo will have even more options at his disposal and will utilize every available one given to him.
Even ... Robby Fabbri, who is on target to start training camp after tearing his left ACL last season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're going to try guys like (Zach) Sanford in the middle, we're going to try Robby in the middle for a little bit of training camp," Yeo said. "Alex Steener's been playing a little bit of center for us and he did a great job in the playoffs. We've got 'Sobe' ... he wasn't real comfortable in coming back as far as coming from the big ice surface getting used to the NHL game, he wasn't real comfortable, felt a little bit more comfortable coming in playing the wing. But coming in at the start of the season, I think he'll be comfortable in that position, too. We've got plenty of people that can fill in in that area and certainly don't feel that we're going to be weak. We've got 'Barby,' we've got 'Brodzy' (Kyle Brodziak) and obviously we've got 'Stas' there. We've got personnel and options."
Acquiring Schenn now was imperative for the Blues, who were looking for a 1-2 punch of offensive talent to complement what would have likely been a tandem of Berglund and Sobotka battling for third-line center minutes and Brodziak anchoring the fourth line.
"What I know is obviously as a player what he is. Coaching against him, seeing the competitor that he is, seeing the way that he scores goals, he contributes at really both ends of the ice," Yeo said of Schenn. "What you learn after you start doing some digging is what a character player and person he is and what a great teammate he's going to be for our group. It's a huge get for us."
|(Philadelphia Flyers photo)|
Acquiring Brayden Schenn (10) even larger for Blues now that Patrik
Berglund is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Schenn is entering the prime years of his career at 25 (turns 26 on August 22), and after scoring 25 goals last season and 26 in 2015-16 and adding 63 of his 139 career assists the past two seasons with the Flyers, the Blues believe they're getting a player who has the potential to be even better.
"Obviously he can score on the power play, he has a net-front presence, he can shoot from the slot," Armstrong said of Schenn, who has three years and a $5.125 average annual value remaining on his contract. "He's only 25 years old, turning 26 into training camp. His last two years I think have been his most productive. He looks like he's settling into that level of player, we're hoping maybe with the opportunity with a new group there might be another level to his game. But we're excited because he fits into that age bracket with a (Alex) Pietrangelo, with a (Vladimir) Tarasenko, with a (Jaden) Schwartz. We have some younger players, like a Robby Fabbri who's been here for a couple years, I don't put him in with that grouping, just because of his age, not because of what he's accomplished. He helps us, he helps our scoring in that area. I think we're going to score by committee; Tarasenko's obviously the lead horse in that area and the more guys who can help chip in, not only relieves the pressure, that adds more goals to him because they have to focus not on one player but on two or three."