Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blues lose Svatos to Predators

Winger was claimed on waivers Wednesday
after signing one-year deal with St. Louis Tuesday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Marek Svatos came to the Blues like a flash in the pan.

Unfortunately from the Blues' standpoint, that's all he'll be remembered for because his departure occured faster than his contract signing.

Svatos, signed to a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday by the Blues, had to clear waivers by 11 a.m. Wednesday morning before officially becoming Blues property.

However, that never materialized as the Nashville Predators claimed Svatos on waivers before the 24-hour deadline elapsed.

Svatos, whose contract is an $800,000 NHL contract and $105,000 AHL contract, practiced with the Blues on Tuesday but was not eligible to play until he cleared waivers.

So his stay in St. Louis was short-lived. He now belongs to the offensively-challenged Predators.

Svatos, who scored 32 goals his rookie season with the Colorado Avalanche and another 26 goals during the 2007-08 campaign, was a free agent this past summer and when he didn't receive any suitable offers, he took his game overseas and was playing for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.

The Blues came in and hammered out a deal and Svatos, who had eight points in 19 games with Omsk, was able to get out of his KHL contract and return to the NHL but in order to do that, he first had to clear waivers despite being an NHL free agent.

"We felt it would be 50/50 that he would go through," Blues President John Davidson said Wednesday. "That was our assessment. If you look at Nashville's roster, they're trying to find goals and they have some legitimate injuries and people missing. Their thinking was along the same lines as ours."

The Predators, who lost their fifth in a row Tuesday at home, are without leading scorer Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat and now Jordin Tootoo. They needed help and used the rules implemented when a player that signs a contract in a league overseas and plays in such league on Oct. 1 or later, if the player chooses to come back to the NHL, such said player must clear waivers first.

The Blues knew it was a crapshoot but were willing to take the risk.

"Obviously we felt like it was something worth the risk or worth the exercise to get him in here," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said of Svatos. "I think that he could have provided us with a little bit of stability, a little bit if experience but we understood going into this that there was the risk that he would get claimed by another team. Obviously Nashville felt the same way we did and they claimed him.

"I look at it as it was a good exercise for our team, it was a good exercise for our organization. Unfortunately for us, he'll get back in the NHL in Nashville, but I would do it again."

The Blues, who despite a four-game winning streak, are looking for some scoring pop in light of the absences of Andy McDonald (concussion), David Perron (concussion) and T.J. Oshie (broken ankle).

Svatos, a power play specialist who has scored 33 of his 96 career goals with the man advantage, would have stepped into a top six role with the Blues immediately. Looks like he'll do the same in Nashville.

"Doug Armstrong did a great job hatching the idea, seeing who was in that situation over in different parts of the world," Davidson said. "With us, we felt it was a legitimate opportunity for (Svatos) to come in with the opportunity to play well and maybe get something done for us. You never know where it was going to go, but we felt that that was a good shot. And Nashville's had injury problems and of course, they lost Tootoo, so you can understand why they did what they did. That's just the price of doing business in our league."

Had Svatos not taken on a contract in the KHL and remained in North America, he would have been eligible to sign with a team of his choice.

"When you enter these, you never know," Armstrong said. "Other teams have injuries also or other teams are looking to bolster their rosters so you just never know.

"I thought it was the best opportunity for the St. Louis Blues. It gave us an option that we wanted to explore, but the rules are the rules. I knew the rules going in and I knew what the potential was."

The Blues (19-12-5) are disappointed but are moving on, just as they have when their injured players started going down.

"You get disappointed but then you know it's business and it's hockey," Davidson said. "Once that little bit of water goes under the bridge, it's gone. You look forward to what's out here.

"The good part about it is our team is playing well, we're getting contributions from different people. I think the players that have had to jump into the lineup and player different slots, higher up than normal, have really acclimated themselves well. This team's tight and they feel good about themselves. We're not in a real big bind by any means. We're playing well, so let's just keep playing well."

The Blues polished off the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, Tuesday night for their longest winning streak since winning seven in a row from Oct. 22-Nov. 7.

Tuesday's win may have been the Blues' most consistent and complete efforts of the season.

"It's one of those where you need to figure a way to bottle that and reproduce it," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "We did a lot of things with good team intent, a lot of support reads were dead-on, especially coming out of the Nashville game where we didn't do a very good job of that. The physical part of our game, taking that step and being into the battle in the right situations was there for us. A lot of pressure to the net. I thought (Blackhawks goalie Marty) Turco had a pretty good evening based on how hard we made him work, but a lot of great execution, a lot of great second- and third-efforts by our guys and that's the type of hockey we need to play."

The Blues are doing it with their full d-corps in tact, they're getting solid goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Ty Conklin and they're starting to get balanced scoring.

"This is our group," Davidson said. "When those guys (McDonald, Perron and Oshie) come back and if they come back, we'll see what happens then. You can sit at home at night and think about Perron and McDonald and where's Oshie ... it doesn't do you any good. You've got to deal with what you're dealt, and this is it.

"I commend these guys because they have never since Day 1 stopped. They've had a couple of clunkers like everybody else has, but they don't stop. This is a good group and it's a very tight group. They care for each other, they don't get bumped around by anybody, they're playing really strong at home, which is a good sign. I like it."

But that doesn't mean the Blues will close the doors in search of help if they can find it.

"We'll obviously keep our ear to the ground to see if there's other players out there in that same situation or if there are potential trades to make," Armstrong said. "Probably nothing different than we were doing two weeks ago or three weeks ago. Our jobs are to always talk to the other teams. If there's something there that can improve our team, short- and long-term ... if we do end up making a player trade, then we want to make a good player trade, whether it's for a current roster player or Peoria players, draft picks or prospects, we want to make sure we're not being reactionary to a one- or two-game winning streak or a three- or four-game losing streak. We want to be careful in what we do. But for sure, we want to keep exploring."

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