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Blues News

Blues Bolster Lineup, Sign Stastny & Lehtera

The St. Louis Blues and Doug Armstrong were big fat winners during Tuesday's opening of the free agency feeding frenzy kickoff by signing former Colorodo Rockies center Paul Stastny and KHL center Jori Lehtera.

Armstrong said he was going to make significant changes, and that's what he did after inking Stastny to a four year, $28 million deal, and Lehtera at two years, $5.5 million.

Stastny reportedly had contract offers for more money and more years, but turned those down to sign with his hometown city.  In an interview with NHL Network, Stastny noted that he is engaged and will be married in the offseason and will be starting a family, and doing that in St. Louis, a town he himself grew up in, appealed to him and played a role in him signing with the Blues.

Lehtera, an offensively talented centerman, was the Blues 2008 3rd rd. draft pick and he had been playing in the KHL the past few seasons.  Armstrong wanted Lehtera to come over and join the Blues organization last season, but Lehtera didn't feel he was ready and opted to stay in Russia another year.  However, his confidence was boosted after playing very well in the Olympics and the World Juniors against tougher competition, so he used $1 million of his own money to help buyout his KHL contract, leaving him free to sign with St. Louis.  Lehtera said that staying in the KHL another year was probably a mistake.

This is big news for the Note for a couple reasons.  

REASON #1:  This is the first time ever...EVER, that the Blues have signed a top notch unrestricted free agent in their prime.

Don't believe me?

Kariya?  He was well past his prime when we signed him.

Shanahan?  He was about to enter his prime, but he was an restricted free agent (big difference).

Stevens?  He was a restricted free agent.

The Blues have signed big name RFA's and traded for big names, but have never signed a big name unrestricted free agent in their prime.

Signing a restricted free agent to an offer sheet that the other team fails to match (they have 7 days to do so), means you have to give compensation in the form of draft picks back to the signed players former team.  The number of picks and what round they are in is determined by the salary that player received from his former team.  The higher the salary, the higher picks and more of them go back the other way.

All of that obviously means that by signing RFA's, while sometimes necessary, can hurt your future by costing you picks.  And of course, trading for big names usually means losing some talent off of your roster, in the minors and/or draft picks.  

That wasn't the case here with signing unrestricted free agents.

 

REASON #2:  The Blues biggest need...by far...not even close, was to improve the power play and offense in clutch situations.  It is the biggest reason why the Blues couldn't get past Chicago in the playoffs.  Stastny should help resolve that issue.  And Lehtera gives us great depth at center with more playmaking ability, so long as his game translates nicely to the NHL...which is, of course, still a question mark.

 

Sooo...

 

By adding elite level talent to the roster by way of unrestricted free agency, in which there is zero compensation to pay...other than money, means nothing is subtracted from the roster, nothing was depleted from the minors, we still have Rattie, Hakanpaa, Jaskin, etc...which makes these signings all the better for now and in the future.

The Central Division is going to be a beast next year.  Drastically upgrading up the middle doesn't guarantee the Blues anything.  The Central was already a monster division last year, but this offseason has seen Dallas add Jason Spezza, Colorado add Iginla, and Chicago add Brad Richards (which was a knee jerk reaction to the Blues, Stars and Avs upgrading their rosters...Richards isn't the player he used to be, but on an offensively gifted team like Chicago, Richards might see a slight bump in his numbers).

Next season would seemingly be a great season to spring for the NHL Center Ice package, if only to watch the central division teams play each other.

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