Sunday, July 10, 2011

Arnott, Langenbrunner have unique opportunity with Blues

Veterans add Stanley Cup pedigree to a lineup aspiring to take next step

ST. LOUIS -- For a team to sign Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner on the same squad, say, 5-10 years ago would have raised a number of eyebrows across the hockey continent.

It would have been called a puck coup.

But the Blues' signing of the veteran pair on Wednesday brings plenty of positive feedback but also does beg one to ask the following questions: how much do they still have in the tank and how can they help a younger squad take the necessary steps to become a playoff team and more importantly, becoming a Stanley Cup contender?

"We're bringing these players in, knowing what they are," said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. "They're mature, older players that have great experience, but they're not 26 or 27 anymore. I'm very comfortable (Blues coach) Davis (Payne) will use these players correctly to give them their rest so they can have the energy on the ice. But these are the players we want to help us play into April and May."

April and May being the key months here ... and let's not forget about June.

Arnott, 36, and Langenbrunner, 35, both have their names engraved on the hardware players dream of laying their hands on: the Stanley Cup. Langenbrunner owns one each with Dallas (1999) and New Jersey (2003) while Arnott (2000) also has one with the Devils.
Jamie Langenbrunner (left) and Jason Arnott hope celebrations are a
common theme in St. Louis with the Blues in 2011-12.   (Getty Images)

Along with forward Andy McDonald and newly acquired defenseman Kent Huskins (each won the Cup with the Ducks in 2007), the Blues want to mix in a bevy of players that have tasted the Cup before with those aspiring to reach it for the first time.

"Two guys that understand what winning and success is in this league," Payne said of signing Arnott and Langenbrunner. "It's great for our team.

"These guys are workers. They're guys who understand what it takes. They'll set a great example for our guys. ... We fully believe that the core of our group and heavy lifting is in that room, and these guys are gonna add to that."

Both Arnott and Langenbrunner chose one-year deals with the Blues. Arnott's is for $2.5 million in base salary, $375,000 in performances bonuses plus a no-trade clause, while Langenbrunner also gets $2.5 million in base salary plus $300,000 in performance bonuses. Both were reportedly offered two-year contracts.

Both may have gotten more on the open market but feel what the Blues can offer in the immediate future was too good to pass up.

"I had a few offers," Arnott admitted. "But I heard nothing but great things about the organization from players that I've played with, and it seemed like a great fit for me ... come in and be a guy to help out the young guys and contribute as much as I can."

Arnott comes in off a bit of a down season last year with New Jersey and Washington, with 17 goals and 14 assists in 73 games. Langenbrunner also had a bit of a down year last season, too. He played with Arnott in New Jersey before being traded to the Stars. The Duluth, Minn. native only potted nine goals and added 23 assists in 70 games. It was his lowest goal output since scoring two with the Stars in 1995-96.

"I want to put last year behind me," Langenbrunner said. "Before that, I had two of the best years of my career (19 goals and 61 points in 2009-10 and 29 goals and 69 points in 2008-09, playing 81 games both seasons). Unfortunately, it was a tough one last year, but I want to come back and get back to the level where I was. Putting up some points, but also playing the game the right way.

"I think with the depth we have in our lineup, it should be able to come from a lot of different lines and take the pressure off one group to get it done."

Arnott has 400 goals and 904 points in 1,172 career games, while Langenbrunner adds 237 goals and 638 points in 1,035 career games. They also have 252 career playoff games between them on their resumes, something the Blues hope rub off on their core group.

"There's nothing like playing with younger guys now," Arnott said. "They bring a lot of energy to the game.

"Anything that I can do to help, I love bringing them along ... just talking about old times and showing them what it takes to win. That's what I'm there for."

Added Payne, "The conversations with both guys, they understand there's a great, young nucleus here and these guys feel they can supplement that and make us a better team. Our talent is there. How it performs on a nightly basis, I think you can take a look at our top nine, there's a lot of interchangeable parts there. How you want to define lines 1-3, most nights can be pretty difficult."

Adding these guys to the mix may make it pretty difficult to define lines 1-4, and Armstrong, who back in 2002 traded Langenbrunner (along with Joe Nieuwendyk) to acquire Jason Arnott and Randy McKay, is glad to have both aboard.

"I just think they wanted to make sure they were going to a situation that they thought was best for them ... not just for this year, but both players want to play multiple years and I think we give them a very good opportunity to come in here," Armstrong said. "Veteran presence is important on our team. We don't have a lot of players that have that been there, done that experience. ... The thing I like about all these players, their professionalism and how they prepare for the game everyday. They're all well-conditioned athletes and you have to be play this long into their careers. I do think it's a very good mix. It's going to accent the core of our team."

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