Some decent quotes here. I'm still not happy with the signing, but knowing he's already working hard and that he wants to be here is encouraging. I won't write him off entirely, but I also don't want this to be a Chris Stewart situation where he always says the right thing but the payoff isn't anywhere close. http://www.stltoday.com/sports/hockey/p ... f2f65.html
Steve Ott has scored 103 goals in the NHL but when he opens the 2014-15 season with the Blues, he’ll be looking for his first with the organization.
After arriving from Buffalo in a trade last February, Ott played in 29 games with the club. But despite playing some on the top line, he failed to notch a goal.
“I think he’s going to want to get that first goal as much as we’re going to want him to get that off his back,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “He was in a lot of scoring chances. He, like our team, had difficulty finding the back of the net.”
But scoring is not necessarily Ott’s forte, or why the Blues brought him back last week —signing the unrestricted free agent to a two-year, $5.2 million deal.
The team needed a versatile veteran forward, after learning last week that Vladimir Sobotka had elected to play next season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.
Despite some interest from around the NHL, Ott still was available and perhaps that was done by design, as the 31-year-old was holding out hope that the Blues might come calling.
“I wanted to go to St. Louis,” Ott said. “That was my No. 1 spot. I told my agent, ‘Listen, let’s make this work any which way we can.’ My heart was already locked up with St. Louis. I’m happy that my family and myself, we’re where we wanted to be. That was my No. 1 thing, to be a Blue again.”
Despite Ott’s bland finish to last season, in which he had a minus-15 rating in those 29 games, Armstrong circled him as the one player headed for unrestricted free agency that the club hoped to retain.
But despite conversations with Ott’s agent, Howard Gourwitz, the Blues couldn’t work out an agreement.
Ott was seeking a longer-term deal than the team was offering. Then the club signed Joakim Lindstrom, added Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera in free agency and continued to negotiate with Sobotka.
Suddenly, the spots were filling.
“I talked to Steve when the season ended about wanting to come back here,” Armstrong said. “We weren’t able to get to a conclusion before free agency and we both said, ‘Stay in touch.’ You never know what’s going to happen in free agency. We were exploring how we can improve our team and he was exploring things. We were both very comfortable to reconvene.”
The re-connection came quickly when Sobotka followed through on a signal that he might play in Europe.
“We were continuing to update each other and where each others’ camps were,” Ott said. “There was a lot of talk going back and forth. We’ve been open and ‘Army’ has been so first-class, it just made things extremely easy. My first option was to win, and even in competitive markets out West (that showed interested), it still didn’t feel right.”
Meanwhile, the Blues felt fortunate he still was on the market 10 days after the start of free agency.
“If he had signed on July 1st or July 2nd, we would have been out,” Armstrong said. “I know the last few days he was talking to more teams again. Sort of my experience, the first 48 hours is a frenzy and then you go into a lull and then the dust has settled and everybody gets back to work. I think Steve was at that top-end of the players that were still available and teams were circling back with him and we were one of them.”
Ott laughed when told that Armstrong had talked about wanting for him to score his first goal with the Blues. In 23 regular-season games after the trade, he had just three assists. In six playoff games, he managed two assists.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t at 100 percent,” Ott said. “I don’t think I gave a true look at what I can bring the team yet. Call it nerves or being in that situation for the first time coming into a new team ... just all those things add up. I was nowhere near my expectations.”
Ott was also dealing with a shoulder injury and a sports hernia that required offseason surgery shortly after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs.
The surgery was successful, and he’s resumed his full routine.
“I’m skating like crazy and working out like crazy,” Ott said. “(The sports hernia) was bothering me for the last few months, and it’s just nice to know that I’m all fixed up. I can already tell, such a tremendous difference in the gym and when I’m skating. I take a big onus on myself to come in and have a big year this year.
“I’m sure you’ll see a little bit of a different player. I can’t wait to start with a fresh, clean slate going into camp and continue to get comfortable, rather than the situation that presented itself last year.”
Ott’s road to becoming a Blue again was a meandering one, but both sides are glad they ended up together.
“We brought him here for a reason,” Armstrong said. “He’s a really strong utility player. I think we all saw what type of competitor he was in the playoffs. It’s really important to have that type of grit and determination in our lineup ... I like the make-up of our team, and I like having a little bit of sandpaper in there.”