Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Blues stay quiet as deadline passes

Sanford arrives in St. Louis after acquisition 
from Capitals, ready to start fresh with new team

ST. LOUIS -- The NHL Trade Deadline came and went on Wednesday without nary a whimper for the Blues, who did nothing else leading up to the deadline to try and improve their slim hold on a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blues, who are the second wild card in the Western Conference by one point over the Los Angeles Kings, only altered things last week when they extended the contract of center Patrik Berglund for five more seasons at $19.25 million, then traded away all-star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and minor league goalie Pheonix Copley for draft picks, center Zach Sanford and veteran winger Brad Malone.
Zach Sanford

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said on Saturday the Blues weren't in the market for rentals and didn't close the door on making any changes but chances were the Blues were only faced with a decision on Shattenkirk, which proved to be the outcome.

And with that decision came the 22-year-old Sanford, a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft who has two goals and one assist in 26 NHL games for the Capitals -- all this season. 

The Auburn, New Hampshire native put up 11 goals and five assists in 25 games for the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears after spending two seasons at Boston College.

The 6-foot-4, 203-pound Sanford arrived in St. Louis prior to the Blues' game against the Edmonton Oilers and will be on the ice when they practice Thursday ahead of a three-game trip to Winnipeg, Colorado and Minnesota.

"It's been kind of (a) crazy (24 hours)," Sanford said.

Sanford was in New York Monday with the Capitals preparing for a game Tuesday against the Rangers when he heard his name in trade talk.

"I had just got back from dinner," Sanford said. "Some rumors were going around, so I kind of decided I had to get to the bottom of it and finally I got the call that I was coming to St. Louis.

"At first being a young guy, maybe some of the wrong thoughts were going through my head. I think taking some time to settle down, take a step back and look at it and the Blues must have really wanted me. It's a good opportunity for me coming here. I'm really excited to step in and hopefully be able to help the club out."

Sanford said the trade caught him by surprise.

"I had no clue," he said. "... I kind of didn't believe it at first. I think St. Louis is a team in the hunt for the playoffs. They're another really strong team. For me to come here, it's a good opportunity for me to hopefully get some minutes, get some playing time and produce for the team."

Armstrong compared having Sanford alongside of 2016 first-round pick Tage Thompson, who is 6-5 himself, as having two big center icemen bring groomed for the future.

"Obviously I'm a big guy," Sanford said. "I like to play with some size down low and protect the puck. I can make some plays around the net, whether at center or wing. I've gotten a lot better defensively than the past few years and I think that's becoming a much more important part of my game."

Sanford, who said he doesn't know anyone on the current Blues roster, got some advice from a familiar face before heading to St. Louis.

"He was a huge help for me when I was there and then when he found out that I was coming here, he had a lot of great things to say about some of the guys here and the organization," Sanford said about former Blue T.J. Oshie. "He said, 'Don't worry about it. You're going to a great place, a great city with a great team and great fans, so just be excited.'"

Sanford has had three stints with the Capitals, and in his latest one, he scored in back-to-back games immediately upon being recalled.

"It's kind of been up and down. I got some games in early," Sanford said. "It was a tough start with one assist. I think some time down in Hershey for me was huge getting some touches and putting up some points. Coming up the last four or five games, I felt a lot more comfortable and playing with a lot more confidence.
(Washington Capitals  photo)
Zach Sanford (left) battles for a loose puck in a game against the New York
Rangers earlier this season. The Blues acquired Sanford on Monday.

"St. Louis is fighting for a spot and everyone here believes that we can make a push for the Cup. That's ultimately the end goal, so hopefully I'll be able to help out with that."

Sanford wants to just be himself and hopes he doesn't have to live up to the popular billing that Shattenkirk left behind.

"I guess there's a little bit of pressure there," said Sanford, who will wear No. 82. "Being a part of a trade for a player like him. Obviously he's a great player and he's been here for a while and become a fan favorite. As long as I can stick to my game and work as hard as I can, I think all that will stay on the backburner."

* NOTES -- The Blues recalled defenseman Jordan Schmaltz from the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday.

Schmaltz, the Blues' first round pick (25th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, has three goals and 22 assists in 42 games with the Wolves this season, his second in the AHL, after having six goals and 30 assists in 71 games with the Wolves a season ago.

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