Monday, July 1, 2019

Blais first RFA domino to fall, gets one-way contract

Blues quiet on first day of free agency, focus shifts on signing 
own players; Pouliot, Walker among depth signings on first day

ST. LOUIS -- On a relatively quiet day for the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Blues sat back and watched others dole out big dollars on the opening day of free agency.

General manager Doug Armstrong has made it clear that the Blues have to focus on their own restricted free agents, and slashed one off the list with the signing of forward Sammy Blais to a one-year, one way contract worth $850,000.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues forward Sammy Blais celebrates with the
Stanley Cup after a Game 7 win at Boston.

Blais, 23, is a 2014 sixth-round pick who played in 32 regular-season games for the Blues this past season and had four points (two goals, two assists); he made his debut in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 6 of the Blues' second-round series against the Dallas Stars and scored what amounted to be an insurance goal that was essentially the nail-in-the-coffin goal and sent the series back to St. Louis for Game 7, one in which the Blues won 2-1 in double-overtime on a goal by Oakville native Pat Maroon.

Blais finished with one goal and two assists in 15 playoff games this season, helping the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history by playing a hard, physical game.

Blais is coming off an entry-level contract he signed in 2015 that paid him $2.175 million for three years that included a slide in his first year of 2015-16. Overall, Blais has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 43 regular-season games.

Blais' signing leaves the Blues with eight remaining restricted free agents, including goalie Jordan Binnington, defenseman Joel Edmundson, forwards Ivan Barbashev, Zach Sanford, Robby Fabbri and Oskar Sundqvist and minor leaguer goalie Ville Husso and defenseman Mitch Reinke.

With that in mind, the likelihood of Maroon, an unrestricted free agent, resigning with his hometown team seem remote at best. 

Maroon, who came home after agreeing to a one-year, $1.75 million contract on July 10 last year, became an important player on the Blues' third line with Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas and scored one of the most important goals in franchise history in Game 7 against the Stars. 

But the Blues have to prioritize signing their RFA's and it will likely leave little to no money against the cap to fit Maroon back into the fold.

Maroon would love nothing more than to continue his career with his hometown team, and even said after the Cup-winning Game 7 over Boston, "I want more now, because once you get one (Cup), you want two. Hopefully I can stay here. Obviously I'm a free agent now. This is home for me now. I won something here. This is home for me." 

The Blues also announced Monday that they have agreed to terms on two-way contracts with forwards Nick Lappin, Evan Polei, Michael Vecchione and Nathan Walker and defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Jake Dotchin.

Pouliot, 25, spent the last two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and had 12 points (three goals, nine) in 62 games in 2018-19 and 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 71 games the previous season. 

Pouliot is intriguing in that he was drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins; he has 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 200 NHL games with Vancouver and Pittsburgh and was a teammate of Sundqvist with the Penguins 2014-15 and 2015-16. Both played in two playoff games during the Penguins' Cup-winning run in 2016.

Lappin, 26, split last season between the New Jersey Devils and Binghamton of the AHL. The Geneva, Ill. native has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 60 NHL games and 123 points (67 goals, 56 assists) in 168 AHL games. 

Walker, 25, has played in 12 NHL games for the Washington Capitals and Edmonton Oilers; he has one goal and one assist and became the first Australian to play in the NHL. He has 140 points (60 goals, 80 assists) in 300 games with Hershey of the AHL, Washington's affiliate.

Dotchin, 25, played 20 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season and had one assist. In 103 regular-season games over three seasons in the NHL, Dotchin has 23 points (three goals, 20 assists). 

Polei, 23, posted 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 53 games for Bakersfield of the AHL in 2018-19, including three points (two goals, one assist) in 10 playoff games.

Vecchione, 26, had 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 67 games for Lehigh Valley of the AHL last season, Philadelphia's affiliate; he played in two games for the Flyers in 2016-17. 

The Blues also signed Cam Darcy, Zach Nastasiuk and J.J. Piccinich to AHL contracts for San Antonio. 

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