Veteran forward, signed to PTO along with Brouwer, was teammate
of Ryan O'Reilly in Colorado, Buffalo; Armstrong prefers experience right now
ST. LOUIS -- Jamie McGinn had a familiar face to lean on.
Having no history with the Blues in his 11-year NHL career, McGinn found himself in uncharted territory without a job. But on Monday, he and fellow veteran Troy Brouwer each signed a professional tryout.
|(Florida Panthers photo)|
Jamie McGinn (right) battles with Montreal's Alex
Galchenyuk last season while with Florida.
McGinn, 31, is quite familiar with Blues center Ryan O'Reilly. They were teammates with the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres. In fact, they each were part of the trade from Colorado to Buffalo that netted Colorado Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the 31st pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.
"I was that extra piece that no one knew about," McGinn joked about after practice on Monday. "... I was the main player, he was named later, I think. Just a salary dump."
Oh, and O'Reilly was part of McGinn's wedding this summer.
"He was great. He even got up there and spoke," McGinn said. "I wasn't sure if he wanted to speak because he had the ESPY's and every other speech that he had to do, so I gave him the option. He said, 'No, no, I want to do this one.' It was a lot of fun."
When the Blues lost Vladimir Tarasenko (dislocated shoulder, re-evaluated in five months) and most recently, Alexander Steen (high left ankle sprain, re-evaluated in four weeks) to injury, general manager Doug Armstrong had the option of going one of two ways: bring up some bodies from San Antonio, prospects that were flourishing with the Rampage but little or no NHL experience to fill a void for a team at the top of the NHL standings with high aspirations as defending Stanley Cup champions, or look elsewhere for veteran help.
Armstrong chose the ladder, but with no guarantees.
"The thought process going into that was we're down to 12 healthy forwards right now," Armstrong said. "I think in our game in Calgary, I think we had eight players on our roster with less than 200 NHL games. We started five guys with less than 100 at the start of the season. It's an experienced league and we just want to make sure to see if there were any experienced players that can come in and help us. I don't know where they're going to be at. McGinn had skated in Carolina, played in a couple games in the American League. Troy Brouwer has been skating with the junior team in Calgary. We'll give those guys a look.
"Also with our depth down in the American Hockey League, we're really excited with the way [Nathan] Walker is playing, and [Klim] Kostin and [Jordan] Kyrou. You look at their experience, it's not there. We don't want to get into a situation where we have 11 or 12 players without experience. There's no guarantees for Jamie or for Troy, but we're going to bring them in here and take a look at them."
McGinn, who most recently was with the Florida Panthers (along with Brouwer) last season, was skating and working out in Toronto after playing in two games for Carolina's AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers. He and O'Reilly spoke, the former connected McGinn with Armstrong and a mutual agreement was made.
"We discussed it a bit," O'Reilly said. "With Vladi going down, and Steen going down, two guys who are irreplaceable, just add a veteran guy, someone come in and see what he can do. I personally know what he can do. It's something we discussed and something that can definitely help our club and give us the depth we need.
"... I think he fits in well with our style. He's a guy that can play on any line, he's physical, he goes to the net, he makes little plays. I think our group he'd fit in really nice with where he can adapt and be in all situations. It's definitely good and he's awesome inside the room too, once he gets comfortable. He's a great voice and says the right things at the right times and helps us out that way being more vocal, especially with guys like Steener going down. It's a good opportunity here and I hope everything goes well and he can join our club."
McGinn had seven points (four goals, three assists) with the Panthers last season and has 220 points (117 goals, 103 assists) in 11 seasons in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Panthers. He doesn't come in with lofty expectations but feels his style and size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) fits into the fabric of how the Blues play.
"I'm coming in and am going to work hard to make the team," McGinn said. "If you have open expectations, that means you're open to not sticking around and not making it. That's not my goal at the end of the day. I want to be here, I want to be a Blue and I want to help the team win. I'm coming to a team that knows how to win a Cup. That was one of my top destinations where I wanted to be this year. I'm going to do anything I can to stay.
"I'm just going to come to the rink with a smile on my face every day and be fun to be around and work hard. Anything they need me to do, I'm going to do. At the end of the day, it's still hockey. Got to work hard. My game's not fancy. Just north-south, play hard and hopefully I can bring that to the team, just work hard in practice and hopefully get in some games. ... They've played like that for a long time. It was a recipe for success last year winning the Stanley Cup. Why not continue to do that? It's very hard to play against. It frustrates other teams. If I can bring that element and continue it, add another element to another line, works hard and hems teams in their end, that's my job and that's what I hope to do."
For the Blues and Armstrong, there's no lack of confidence in the younger players. But the path of continuing the developmental process is of vital importance, and rushing someone like a Kyrou, who needs games right now to compensate for time missed stemming from off-season kneecap surgery, and Kostin, who at 20 is still raw and learning the North American game, isn't worth the risk right now.
"We believe in these young guys," Armstrong said. "It's just the next injury. Obviously if you lose an experienced player and you put another young player in there, if a younger player, one of these guys with less than 200 games went out and you put in one of those guys I talked about, it's a net zero. If you lose a Steen and a Tarasenko and you're putting guys with no experience, there's a difference. Right now, knowing Vladi's out five months and be re-evaluated and Steener's going to be re-evaluated in four weeks and you lose a guy with experience, it's a man's league, and we want to respect the league and see if there's veteran players that can help us. If they can't, and if the young guys are better, then they're better. But I've seen teams that have gone totally young and there's growing pains with that. I think we've stated all along that we want to try and be competitive with the upper echelon teams and most of those teams are experienced also."
It's not to say Kostin, Kyrou or Walker, haven't served notice.
"Klim's an interesting guy because in reality, he should have played his eighth American Hockey League game the other day, but he went there as an 18- and 19-year-old," Armstrong said. "I think the process in the public's eye is he's been down there a long time. He's just a kid. He's a year behind where Kyrou is. We're excited. He would like to get right into the sprint, and we're trying to slow him down a bit. He scored the other day, he looks like he's coming along and someone that certainly is on our radar screen when we need a player.
"I was in San Antonio last weekend and saw [Kyrou] play. He played his first game, so I think he's played three or four now and I watched the game when I got home on television last night. He's playing good. He's getting scoring opportunities. He's chipping off some of the rust that's been building up over the past four or five months. He's showing very well. Kostin had a goal when I was there and scored again last night. He's got an NHL shot and he's progressing and Walker's playing very good. There's real positive signs down there."
With Brouwer, the Blues know who they're getting.
Brouwer, 34, will arrive in St. Louis and be on the ice for the morning skate Tuesday prior to the Blues hosting the Coyotes. He also spent last season with the Panthers and had 21 points (12 goals, nine assists) in 75 games.
Brouwer spent the 2015-16 season with the Blues and helped St. Louis reach the Western Conference Final. In his 13-year NHL career, Brouwer has 362 points (181 goals, 181 assists) in 838 games with the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals, Blues, Calgary Flames and Panthers; he left the Blues after the 2016 season and signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Flames.
|(Florida Panthers photo)|
Former Blue Troy Brouwer, who played with Florida last
season, hopes to land with the Blues again after signing PTO.
"Jamie and Troy come with good pedigree, but we're not looking for guys outside our group to carry our group," Armstrong said. "They're coming in and trying to earn a roster spot, but we're very excited with the growth of our leadership with [Jaden] Schwartz and Schenner [Brayden Schenn] and O'Ry starting to wear a letter, Colton [Parayko], Alex [Pietrangelo]. There's enough leaders in there that these guys are coming into play and not to lead.
"I think they're competing with themselves or really with everyone to see where they fit in on an NHL roster. Right now, we have 12 healthy guys that are here. We'll see where they fit in. It's not competition for one job or it could be zero jobs. We'll how they play or it could be two."