New York added some defensive depth on Friday, agreeing to terms with Russian blueliner Alexei Bereglazov.
Bereglazov, 23, has spent the last few seasons with KHL club Metallurg Magnitogorsk, including a ’16-17 campaign in which he scored 19 points in 60 games. He led all d-men aged 24 or younger in assists, with 18.
Despite being passed over at the draft, Bereglazov had a good junior career, highlighted by capturing bronze for Russia at the 2014 World Juniors. He finished with two points in seven games in the tourney, playing alongside the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Ivan Barbashev and his new Rangers teammate, Pavel Buchnevich.
It’ll be interesting to see where he fits in New York next season. The club has seven blueliners under contract — Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Klein, Nick Holden, Brady Skjei and Steve Kampfer — with Brendan Smith a pending UFA, and Adam Clendening a pending RFA.
Paul Stastny has not played for the St. Louis Blues since March 21 due to a lower body injury, and it is not yet known if he will be ready for the start of their playoff series against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.
Adding to that uncertainty is the fact he did not take part in practice on Tuesday.
That means it will likely be rookie forward Ivan Barbashev skating on the team’s top line between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.
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“To be honest, I’m really excited,” Barbashev said on Tuesday via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Especially with those guys in the playoffs. It’s awesome. I don’t know, just really happy about it and I’m looking forward to the first playoff game.”
The 21-year-old Barbashev has appeared in 30 games for the Blues this season, recording five goals and seven assists. That is pretty strong production when you take into account he has only averaged just a little more than 11 minutes of ice-time per game and has received almost no power play time. His current 2.23 points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play is the highest mark on the team this season. He is entering the playoffs on a four-game point streak for the Blues.
When Stastny was initially injured the Blues did not think it was going to be a serious injury, but it has been serious enough to keep him out of the lineup for several weeks.
Along with Barbashev centering the top line, the Blues were also using Vladimir Sobotka, who recently rejoined the team as part of his on-again, off-again relationship with the organization, on the third-line alongside Jori Lehtera and Alexander Steen.
The Blues are already playing without forward Robby Fabbri due to an ACL injury that ended his season.
The Blues enter the playoffs with the lowest odds to win the Stanley Cup, but are 22-8-2 under coach Mike Yeo and have been playing some of their best hockey of the season in recent weeks.
Blues forward Jori Lehtera, who’s missed nearly a month with a concussion, declared himself healthy and able to return to the lineup ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Jets.
But when will he draw back in?
Lehtera has missed 12 games in a row and, during that spell, St. Louis has played extremely well, going 9-1-2 to move into third spot in the Central Division. That includes Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Preds — the team chasing St. Louis in the Central — and it’s reasonable to suggest head coach Mike Yeo won’t tinker much with a winning lineup.
Lehtera had a difficult year prior to getting hurt, scoring just six goals and 19 points through 61 games. Concussion issues derailed the start of his campaign and, in December, former head coach Ken Hitchcock made the 29-year-old a healthy scratch, saying the Blues needed more from him.
With Lehtera, Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri out, Yeo has been forced to integrate some of the organization’s younger forwards into the NHL mix, and the kids have responded. Ivan Barbashev has played well, as has Zach Sanford, one of the assets acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Washington trade.
Mike Weber, the last of several experienced skaters attending Blues camp on a tryout basis, has been released from his contract, the club announced on Friday.
Weber, 28, caught on with the Blues after splitting last season between Buffalo and Washington. He, along with Eric Nystrom, Chris Porter and T.J. Galiardi all attended St. Louis’ camp on PTOs — none of them were able to secure contracts, however.
To be fair, the Blues roster was a tough one to crack, especially on defense.
Weber was looking to work his way into a group that features Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Kevin Shattenkirk, Joel Edmundson, Roberto Bortuzzo, Carl Gunnarsson and Petteri Lindbohm. Jordan Schmaltz, the 25th overall pick in 2012, was also knocking at the door.
Speaking of Schmaltz, his time with the Blues came to an end today as well. GM Doug Armstrong sent the North Dakota product to AHL Chicago, along with forwards Kenny Agostino, Ivan Barbashev and Samuel Blais, and goaltender Jordan Binnington.