Team resigns Bortuzzo, adds fourth-line
center Brodziak on busy second day of free agency
By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- The Blues were in the trade market ever since they were eliminated from the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Changes were on the horizon with the core group and general manager Doug Armstrong pulled the plug on the first -- and perhaps only -- significant trade of right wing T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals for right wing Troy Brouwer, goalie prospect Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third round pick.
Oshie, 28, was the Blues' first round pick in 2005 (24th overall) and has spent his entire seven-year career with the Blues where he had 110 goals and 330 points in 443 regular season games, including 19 goals and 36 assists in 72 games last season.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
T.J. Oshie's tenure in St. Louis is over after he was traded
to the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
But the knack on Oshie, who had been rumored to be on the trade block for some time, and others considered part of the core group was that they have been unable to elevate the Blues on a winning platform when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I thought something would possibly happen at the draft (last weekend)," said Oshie, who will be getting married later this summer. "After a couple of days, I just figured that I'd be staying in St. Louis. I got a call from Armstrong today and my initial reaction was a little bit of shock, even though that I knew it was a possibility. Then after a couple of minutes, I started getting excited to go onto the next chapter of my career.
"... I did feel with the players in that locker room that we were falling short, but if we went back with the same team that we would have hopefully learned from some of our mistakes. But after I saw (coach Ken Hitchcock) was coming back, I figured there would be at least one or two moves that Army would want to make."
Oshie has five goals and nine points in 30 playoff games and is a minus-12. He has two years remaining on a contract that he signed in 2013 with a cap hit of $4.175 million. His actual salary the next two seasons is $4.5 million.
The Blues were looking to make what Armstrong called, "a hockey trade." In other words, moving a significant player and/or players for a significant player and/or players in return. It had been difficult, and Oshie's name was popping up all over the rumor mill, but Armstrong couldn't pull the trigger until Thursday.
"Hockey trades are hard to make in this league," Armstrong said. "You don't see many of them. This is a team that A) we have some younger players that I would like to see take a bigger role moving forward. I think that opens up a little bit of space for that. It brings in a different style of player. Obviously we haven't had the success that we've wanted to have and this isn't a reflection of one player, but you have to make adjustments.
"Obviously making a trade of this magnitude is difficult for an organization. We drafted T.J. years ago. He's been part of our group and it's difficult to say goodbye, but also we're excited to bring Troy into our group. Troy's a power forward in today's game, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, consistent 20-goal scorer, plays the way that the Blues are looking to play moving forward. You can put him on any of the wings, on the right wing with any of the three centermen, he's played up the line in Washington, has also played a third-line role, very effective on the power play. An ironman also. Doesn't miss many games. This trade allows us to go in a little bit of a different direction. It opens up space for some of our younger players to grab another minute, minute-and-a-half of ice time than what they had last year. That was sort of the genesis and the reasoning behind the trade.
The 29-year-old Brouwer, who scored 21 goals and added a career-best 22 assists and 43 points last season, had three assists in 14 playoff games with the Capitals last season, but he won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 before becoming part of the salary cap purge there.
He comes to the Blues with a pedigree of winning. He has 132 goals and 255 points in 531 regular season games and
"I'm an honest player," said Brouwer, who scored the winning goal with 12.9 seconds remaining in the Winter Classic against the Blackhawks. "I'm a guy that works hard. I've got some skill to me. I can make some plays, been able to score some goals, but I'm a big body, big power forward. I like to play in front of the net, in the corners, play a hard-nosed game, I'll fight when I need to. I like to feel like I'm a pretty well-rounded player with the ability to score 20-25, hopefully 30 goals but also still being able to finish my checks and be a very reliable guy for the Blues."
The Blues felt like somewhere along the core group, there needed to be a change. And with Oshie being the most marketable player they could dangle via trade, Armstrong felt like the Blues needed a different type of player in the locker room.
"He certainly comes with a high recommendation from former teammates and from people that we know of a strong character person," Armstrong said. "I think it just fits in to what I think you need to have success. (Brouwer's) a Stanley Cup champion, he's been on some very good teams in Washington and that size to play a heavy game. When you look at our conference, you have to play with size and you have to play with weight. This certainly makes us a more difficult team to play against."
Oshie has been with the franchise for seven seasons and was part of the group the Blues were looking to build around after the lockout of 2005. He wasn't surprised change was forthcoming following a loss to the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference First Round. He joins David Perron from that core that are now ex-Blues.
He wanted to make clear that the riff caused by some comments he made regarding Hitchcock were blown out of proportion after missing some time with the flu and feeling refreshed again. He had no issues with his now former coach and thanked Blues fans for their tremendous support throughout the years.
"I feel like the media blew out of proportion the thing that I said about being refreshed," Oshie said. "I think fans thought that me and Hitch had a bad relationship or something like that. But, you know, changes had to be made ... and like I said, I couldn't be more excited about going to Washington.
"It's been amazing for me. Honestly the Blues fans, they took me in right from the get-go, even before I got there, when I was in college, and treated me really well all the way through. A big thanks to them for all their support, for the good times and the bad. If you would have asked me last summer, I would have said that I was going to retire as a Blue. But I definitely thank the fans and all the players that have given me the support over the last seven years."
The 29-year-old Brouwer is a sandpaper-type player whose cap hit is $3.66 million. Armstrong said they have players of Oshie's caliber but not enough that play like Brouwer.
"T.J.'s a heck of a hockey player and was a very good player here, but I really think with his size and his style of play, we had players that played like that same style," Armstrong said. "Brouwer gives us a little bit of a different look. I think in today's game, you can see the teams that can come with a different look are hard to play against."
Brouwer, whose wife is due to deliver the couple's child in early September, hopes that his playing days with the Blackhawks and familiarity with the Central Division can help his transition.
"I hope so," he said. "I've met (David) Backes once or twice when he was in Washington for a Team USA camp. Aside from that, I don't know any of the players personally, but on the ice, playing against the guys, being in the Central Division against them a couple years ago, you get a sense for what type of people they are, what type of players they are and then also with them getting a lot of exposure as far as being contenders in the past couple seasons, you get a lot of media coverage on them. I've heard what guys are saying, how they're playing. So I've got a good idea of how the team plays, how they're coached even before I get to the city and get to meet the guys personally."
Copley, 23, was 17-4-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with the Capitals' American Hockey League's Hershey Bears last season, is 6-3 ad weighs 175 pounds and Armstrong said he will go right to the Wolves.
"He played at Michigan Tech, someone that (assistant GM) Kevin McDonald has liked. He played a secondary role this year, but he had a very good record, very good save percentage, very good win record. He's a guy that will go right into Chicago and compete with Binnington and give us a little more depth in that area. We have a couple young prospects that we like, but this certainly adds another one to the equation."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
The Blues acquired Troy Brouwer (20) from the Capitals along with a
goalie prospect and draft pick for T.J. Oshie Thursday.
Armstrong said the Blues are pretty well set for what they consider to be their top nine at forward, but they will continue to explore from a depth perspective.
"We're still active and maybe looking to add another piece or two, but they're not at the higher level," Armstrong said. "It would just be filling out our roster. ... This certainly solidifies our group of nine forwards."
They did so Thursday evening by adding fourth-line center Kyle Brodziak, formerly of the Minnesota Wild, with a one-year contract worth $900,000. Brozdiak, 31, played in 73 games with Minnesota last season, scoring nine goals and 11 assists. He has 98 goals and 228 points in 621 regular season games.
The Blues signed center Jori Lehtera to a three-year extension worth $14.1 million on Wednesday, then signed restricted free agent defenseman Robert Bortuzzo for two years and $2.1 million on Thursday, so taking care of their own players (Tarasenko and Jake Allen are RFA's) has been their top priority. They've added depth pieces to the organization with the Chicago Wolves, but when pressed on if the Blues are done making any significant trades, Armstrong cautioned, "I never say never. ... We still have some areas that we need to fill in, but this wasn't done to set up for something else."