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If the pre-NHL draft buzz wasn’t already heightened for Blues’ fans, it is now.
The Blues have nine picks, including the No. 21 overall selection, in the two-day draft that starts at 6 tonight at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
But it’s not the amateurs who will be added to the Blues’ system that has everyone’s interest peaked — it’s the possibility of the Blues trading for an established center such as Ottawa’s Jason Spezza.
General manager Doug Armstrong will need all of his pucks in a row to make such a move, and the re-signing of Patrik Berglund Thursday was possibly a pre-cursor.
The Blues and Berglund agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension, a move that because of its timing might suggest the Swedish center could be used in a trade.
Berglund’s three-year contract — his longest since his entry-level deal in 2008 — is worth $11.1 million for an average annual value of $3.7 million.
Set to become a restricted free agent on Tuesday, and holding some leverage with arbitration rights, Berglund has been at the center of much speculation.
The Senators are said to be seeking a top-six forward, a prospect and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Spezza.
It would seem to benefit the Blues to have any negotiating chips under contract. A trading partner could be hesitant to make a deal if there’s any uncertainty about being able to re-sign the player.
Armstrong was unavailable Thursday, but he was asked recently if Berglund was garnering attention from other NHL teams.
“Yeah, he would have a lot of interest around the league,” Armstrong said. “But he has a lot of interest with me, too.”
Berglund, 26, recently wrapped up his sixth season with the Blues. He has 106 goals and 220 points in 436 NHL games.
In 2013-14, Berglund had 14 goals, 32 points and was a plus-10 in 78 games. He suffered a shoulder injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season in Dallas and missed the first two games of the first-round playoff series loss to Chicago.
“I don’t think Patrik was over the moon with his season,” Armstrong said recently. “Moving from centering to wing, he never really solidified his spot anywhere on our team. We need more from him and he probably needs more from us.”
Berglund was one of three Blues’ RFAs heading into the offseason. The other two are Vladimir Sobotka and Jaden Schwartz.
Ten days ago, Peter Wallen, Berglund’s agent, told the Post-Dispatch in an email that there was “nothing to report yet,” and last week Armstrong said he didn’t expect any of the Blues’ free agents to be re-signed before July 1.
Armstrong has never been in a rush to sign RFAs in the past and it’s doubtful that the Blues were fearful of a team tendering Berglund an offer sheet.
But if the Blues are in the midst of making a deal, and Berglund is potentially involved, the timing of the signing makes sense.
Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray did speak with reporters in Philadelphia Thursday, but offered no update on the progress of a potential deal.
“The draft doesn’t start until (6 p.m. St. Louis time),” Murray said. “It’s very possible there could be a (Friday) afternoon conversation.
“I’m not a betting man, so I won’t give any odds. I’m not sure at this point. I’m certainly having some discussions, not as much as I thought I might have, but there are ... a few people talking to me that have expressed interest.”
In addition to the Blues and Anaheim, speculation Thursday added Chicago and Florida to the Spezza Sweepstakes.
The center does have a modified no-trade clause that allows him to decline a deal to a list of 10 teams that he’s already provided the Senators. The Blues are believed to be on his list of approved destinations.