St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong’s phone was busy this week.
It was announced on Tuesday that the club agreed to terms with unrestricted free-agent forward Jamie Langenbrunner on a one-year, $1.25 million contract that has the potential to earn him an extra $250,000 in incentives. Langenbrunner, 36, scored 6 goals and 18 assists last season as the Blues’ assistant captain.
Shortly after the Langenbrunner signing was made public, Armstrong traded forward B.J. Crombeen and the Blues’ fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for the Lightning’s fourth-round picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts. Crombeen scored 1 goal, 2 assists and accumulated 71 penalty minutes in 40 games last season.
While these may seem like minor shake-ups on the surface, the motor may be running hot underneath the hood in St. Louis
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday morning that the club had their sights set on Dallas Stars’ Captain Brenden Morrow as a trade target. Rutherford reported that the 34-year old left-wing was known to be available, as the Blues, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks are all listed as teams that are expressing their interest.
But Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk denied these claims, stating that he recently spoke with Morrow about his future with the Stars organization.
“We had a good talk the other day, and I told him I very much believe there’s a place for him on this team,” Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Morning News. “I told him I fully expect him to be out there on the power play in front of the net where he’s always been.”
While these allegations may have been debunked by Nieuwendyk, there is likely some truth from the Blues’ end. Langenbrunner rounds out a solid fourth line for the Blues (with center Scott Nichol and right-wing Ryan Reaves). Moving Crombeen frees up about $1.05 million in salary room.
Despite posting the second-best record in the NHL, the Blues ranked 21st in goals-scored-per-game last season. They also scored just six goals in the Kings’ four-game sweep in the Western Conference Semifinals. This begs the question, how confident is Blues management with their current offense?
Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock does coach a defense-first mentality, but the goals do need to come more often. Add in that T.J. Oshie, although a restricted free-agent, is still left unsigned and has filed for salary arbitration. Youngsters Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz are expected to make the opening day roster, but they are unproven at the NHL level.
So it is easy to see why Armstrong may be testing the waters of the trade market.
There is still some admirable talent in free-agency, too. Coyotes Captain Shane Doan, currently an unrestricted free-agent, is believed to be targeted by the Blues. Doan would fit well in Hitchcock’s system, which stresses a lot of the same core aspects that current Coyotes Head Coach, Dave Tippett, uses in his methods. Doan, 35, recorded 22 goals and 28 assists in 79 games played last season.
Oshie is likely to be re-signed, but I would not be surprised to see a few changes in the Blues’ future.
If I am wrong, this is what the Blues’ offense may look like on opening day:
Andy McDonald – Patrik Berglund – Alex Steen
David Perron – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Chris Stewart – Vladimir Sobotka – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jamie Langenbrunner – Scott Nichol – Ryan Reaves
Scratches: Jaden Schwartz, Matt D’Agostini
This is not a bad lineup, especially for a young and defensive team.
Armstrong can be counted on for one thing, though; find the best way to put a superior product on the ice every night.