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The Blues have been dragging their feet with Carlo Colaiacovo. They've never told him no, he wasn't welcome back -- but they never fell all over themselves in re-signing him, either. The team's been eager to upgrade the defense this off-season, and the opportunity hasn't shown itself, so I have a sneaking suspicion that a good number of Blues fans figured that the team'd suck it up and offer him a deal to maintain the status quo.
Turns out that might not be happening. A report from Brendan Savage of MLive.com states that the Detroit Red Wings have offered Carlo Colaiacovo a two year contract at $2.5 million a season, apparently because Jay Feaster's asking price for Jay Bouwmeester was too steep. Colaiacovo is a good defenseman, but probably not exactly the upgrade at defense the Wings were looking at this off-season.
It's a harsh consolation prize for Wings fans, who saw legend Nicklas Lidstrom retire and the team miss out on both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Colaiacovo is very injury prone and misses around 15 or so games a season for whatever reason.
Today was St. Louis Blues day over at Pro Hockey Talk. They took a look at Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk -- and how long the Blues can lock them up for. It wasn't exactly an in-depth look at the Blues' policies when it comes to RFAs other than the team tends to like shorter-term contracts, and apparently use David Perron's four year deal as a conclusion towards what the Blues would give Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. The difference between the players is staggering. Perron is a forward who has proven himself on the ice, but still needs to prove he isn't liable to get another knock on the noggin. T.J. Oshie's last contract was a one year, "put up or shut up" sort of deal. Patrik Berglund's last deal was also of that vein, though it was for two instead of one years.
All of this shows two things about the Blues: a) they're smart with their money versus throwing goo gobs of it at young talent and b) they also like to get their players to show them the goods before locking them in, so they'll give them short contracts during their RFA years. Ryan Dadoun explains the situation from the players' side, and kind of misses the point:
Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk are scheduled to become restricted free agents next summer. It would be shocking if the Blues were unable to retain their services, but it will give us our first real insight into their long-term intentions. Will they be interested in signing extremely long-term contracts — if that option is still available under the new CBA — or will they lean towards signing shorter deals so that they can retain the option of eventually testing the unrestricted free agent waters?
The thing with the Blues and their restricted free agents has never been about the RFAs testing the waters, it's been about the Blues feeling secure in their investment before they spend money. Their presumed approach to Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk of caution (though in this case I would expect slightly less than they've shown other RFAs) carries over into the UFA market as well. Just because the Blues have new owners in Tom Stillman's bunch doesn't mean that they have carte blanche to sign anyone that they want.
Pro Hockey Talk's Jason Brough looked more specifically at that situation, and like his compatriot, he missed the point:
Perhaps the Blues can get closer to the cap if the new CBA includes more revenue-sharing, i.e. big-market teams increasing their subsidies to small-market teams.
However, there will always be a divide of a certain size between rich and poor in the NHL.
Not that the Blues are poor – cost-conscious is probably a better way to put it.
Being cost-conscious and revenue-sharing don't necessarily go hand in hand; it's more or less having an owner with deep pockets. Dave Checketts never had them, and this is Stillman's first year owning the franchise. Will he go out and throw mad money at UFAs? Would you? Absolutely not. So, when you look at the cases of Matt Carle ($5.5 million cap hit) or Jason Garrison ($4.6 million cap hit), would you not think that at certain point of the talks the Blues just went and said "Nope, no way. This is getting a bit high"?
Their willingness to not spend huge amounts of money on an unrestricted free agent might not be because the team's broke, but because the team's content with what they've had on the ice for the past season. Would Carle or Garrison have helped? Sure, but the question the team needs to ask themselves is "would they help as much in relation to the price paid?"
This, also, misses the point:
Another challenge for management in its pursuit of free agents is location. There’s nothing wrong with St. Louis, but if a player want to live the glamorous life, it’s hard to compete with New York City. If he wants to be recognized on every street corner, a Canadian city is the place to go. And if he doesn’t like freezing in the winter, there are warmer places than eastern Missouri.
It's hard to discount the number of Blues alumni who retire from the sport and choose to remain in St. Louis because of how much they like the city, or the guys who've been traded and keep their homes in STL, or who still return after retirement. Would Wayne Gretzky have wanted to retire a Blue if St. Louis was such a terrible sell for free agents? Not everyone's going to have to deal with Mike Keenan, who would make Valhalla a living hell. If he's not breathing down your back, St. Louis is a pretty ok place for an athlete to live.
The Blues are fine, and they know it. Would they like to upgrade a tad? Sure, but are they going to risk big money upgrading where it's not going to help? No. Doug Armstrong was the NHL General Manager of the Year this year, not Darcy Regier. There's a reason for that.
Spare cogs are always nice to have, and this off-season has seen the Blues pick up quite a few of them. The Peoria Rivermen have gotten an influx of defenseman and a goaltender; now, they get to keep one of their top forwards. The Blues, per Andy Strickland, have re-signed forward Chris Porter to a one year, two-way contract.
Porter will challenge for a spot on the fourth-line and he'd fill in for any Vladimir Sobotka in a pinch if Sobe winds up injured. Scott Nichol and Jamie Langenbrunner are both back, so expect to see Porter in a call-up spot for the most part. He played a surprising 47 games for St. Louis last season due to others' injuries, in which he had four goals and three assists, and finished a -1.
Forward Jamie Langenbrunner isn't a top-six forward anymore. He hasn't been for a few years, but that doesn't mean that he's outlived his usefulness. Langenbrunner's a solid bottom-six guy, good for fifteen minutes a night, and is excellent on the penalty kill. He's also an assistant captain, and an important Cup-winning presence in the locker room. Many have credited him with helping guide the younger Blues to the playoffs last season. He played 70 games last season, scoring six goals and 18 assists. He also finished +7, and was one of the better shut-down guys on the team.
He had said that he would like to re-sign with the Blues upon the end of the last season, and today the Blues made that happen with a one-year deal. The contract is a bit of a pay-cut for the forward, who was on the books for a $2,750,000 cap hit in 2011-2012. This season his salary will be $1,250,000 with a $250,000 bonus for just $1.5 million against the cap.
Signing old San Jose Sharks seems to have done well for the Blues, especially in the case of gritty fourth-liner Scott Nichol. This time around it wasn't a player in the same mold as Nichol that they snagged. Instead, it was an AHL guy who could come in handy for injury calling-upping. The Blues signed Andrew Murray to a one year, two way contract for a standard $600,000 cap hit.
Murray played 39 games for the Sharks last year, tallying one goal and three assists. He's played portions of five NHL seasons between the Sharks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring 40 points in 220 games.
Apparently the Peoria Rivermen need some defensive depth, because this is not the top four defenseman that the team is looking for. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweeted that the Blues have brought back Jeff Woywitka for a year on a two-way contract. He's NHL ready, just not really that NHL good any more.
Woywitka was last seen in New York Ranger blue. He played 27 games for the Rangers, scoring one goal and six assists, and finished with a +2 rating. In his tenure with the Blues, the most games played in a season stands as 65 -- over four seasons he played in just 152 games. His first year with St. Louis, 2005-2006, saw him net a -12 rating in just 16 games, but as the team improved so did his play.
This is a good depth move for the Rivermen/emergency call-up backup. Out of the three defensemen signed over the last two days, Woywitka has the most NHL experience and is probably the most stable to have out there.
The Blues were generally quiet on the first day of the big free agent frenzy with no major unrestricted free agent signings or re-signings to speak of. The Blues did, however, shore up their defensive depth with three UFA signings that should be major to Peoria Rivermen fans, at least.
The Rivermen got two defensemen yesterday with the signings of Taylor Chorney and Scott Ford. Ford is an AHL journeyman and a seasoned vet, with 380 AHL games under his belt. He has four goals and 37 assists in those games. He captained the Milwaukee Admirals last season and suited up for 75 games.
Taylor Chorney might be a familiar name to Blues fans. He actually played in two games for the team last season when he was claimed off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton re-claimed him when the Blues attempted to send him down to the Rivermen. Chorney has actually played 61 NHL games in which he's accumulated seven points.
Goaltender Mike McKenna last played for the Ottawa Senators AHL affiliate, Binghamton. Basically, he and former goaltender Ben Bishop switched places, hometown guy for hometown guy. McKenna's father is the official scorekeeper at Scottrade Center, so this is a homecoming for someone who has played in 17 NHL games with Tampa Bay and New Jersey. He adds goaltending depth and security just in case and injury happens to either Jaroslav Halak or Brian Elliott.
Today's always an exciting day in the NHL, when players' whose contracts are up get a chance to test the free market. Will any of them want to test out Market Street?