Friday, July 1, 2011

Blues resign D'Agostini, sign backup goalie Elliott

Team gets netminder from Avalanche, stays
relatively quiet on first day of free agency

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues weren't involved in some of the heavy-hitting, free-spending that was going on in the first day of the NHL free agent signing period, but they were efficient in shoring up one area and bringing back a key piece to another.

As expected, the Blues resigned winger Matt D'Agostini to a two-year, $3.3 million contract early Friday and then addressed their depth in goal by signing free agent Brian Elliott away from Colorado with a one-year, two-way contract.

Matt D'Agostini is all smiles after cashing in on a new two-year
contract. (Getty Images)

D'Agostini, who could have become an unrestricted free agent Friday after the Blues did not give him a qualifying offer and thus negating his restricted free agency status, will earn $1.5 million in 2011-12 and $1.8 million in 2012-13.

The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native had a career high in goals (21), assists (25) and points (46) in 82 games with the Blues last season.

"We had some good talks leading up to today," D'Agostini said. "The feeling was to get it done before (11 a.m.), but my agent (Steve Bartlett) and the Blues were always in good talks and it was kind of 'right there' the whole time. I never really tested the open market. St. Louis was always the No. 1 spot for me."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said all along that D'Agostini was a priority despite his impending UFA status.

"He knew how important he was to our team, and I knew how much he wanted to be here," Armstrong said. "It worked out good for both sides. He's going to have a good opportunity to be a top-nine forward. Now, he needs to take advantage of it and make this the starting block for the rest of his NHL career."

D'Agostini, 24, picked up unrestricted free agent status after the Blues decided not to qualify him by Monday's 5 p.m. deadline. He otherwise would have been a restricted free agent and the team would have owned his rights and match any outside offer sheets. But after having a career-season, D'Agostini had leverage of going to arbitration, and that seemed to be an avenue the Blues were not willing to explore.

"I kind of got an explanation from 'Army' on that," said D'Agostini. "He told me that we could hopefully work something out, and we did. I'm happy with the way everything went.

"I like the management, I like the team, and you know what, I'd rather stick in St. Louis then start moving all over the place. I like what we've got there. We've got a lot of depth and good goaltending, defense ... the team is capable of a lot of good things. I'm excited to be a part of it."

With a plethora of injuries that the Blues suffered last season, D'Agostini seemed to be the one to take the most advantage of playing a top six role and picking up the scoring slack for those that missed time in those roles.

"Hopefully I put myself out there, management saw what I could bring to the table," D'Agostini said. "Given that chance next, hopefully I can put up better numbers and help the team win."

However, he could return to a third-line role next season, which bodes well for the Blues and balance out their scoring depth.

"I haven't really thought about that too much, really," D'Agostini said. "For me, our top nine is a solid group, so whatever the coaches want to do with linemates ... top six, top nine, top 12, we'll see what happens. Just looking forward to getting back with the boys again, start skating and start the season."

Elliott, 26, split last season with the Ottawa Senators and most recently, the Colorado Avalanche. He was traded to the Avalanche for fellow netminder Craig Anderson.

The Blues were searching for someone who could not only back up No. 1 Jaroslav Halak but challenge Ben Bishop, who's a restricted free agent.

"One goalie who was 'someone of interest' signed a multi-year deal as a No. 1," Armstrong said without divulging a name.

The majority of goalies signed as backups today aside from Mike Smith leaving Tampa Bay to take over the No. 1 job in Phoenix and Jose Theodore leaving Minnesota to become the top guy with revamped Florida. Jean-Sebastien Giguere signed with the Avalanche but presumably to back up newly-acquired Sergei Varlamov.

"Instead of bringing in someone we know is a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2, we brought in Elliott to give some competition to Bishop," Armstrong said. "Ben certainly knows now where he stands. Jaro is the clear-cut No. 1 goalie, and we're looking for someone to give him a good partner. (Bishop and Elliott will both be) on similar contracts. As they say, 'May the best man win.'"

Elliott struggled last season with a 15-27-9 record that included three shutouts. But a 3.34 goals-against average and .893 save percentage were not the numbers Elliott was accustomed to. But Elliott had a breakout season with the Senators in 2009-10. He was 29-18-9 with a 2.57 goals-against and .909 save percentage.

Armstrong said the team looked at a variety of players at different positions and something could pan out here soon. Nothing matched up accordingly Friday.

"We did talk to forwards, did talk to defensemen, and we still have some lines in the water," Armstrong said. "We're waiting to see what happens in the next week to 10 days. But I believe we have a good team and we have the assets to improve if we can (via trade)."

A couple minor moves saw the Blues officially announce the signing of forward Adam Cracknell to a one-year, two-way contract at $575,000 NHL and $90,000 AHL; they signed 2010 fifth round pick Cody Beach to an entry-level contract and forward Nicholas Drazenovic, who spent the majority of the past four seasons at Peoria, signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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