Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Blues shore up goaltending — extend Allen, bring in Hutton


From the club:

St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today the club has signed goaltender Jake Allen to a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension and goaltender Carter Hutton to a two-year, $2.25 million contract.

The Allen deal — one that carries a $4.35M average annual cap hit — was a no-brainer, especially after Armstrong traded away Brian Elliott to Calgary at the draft. Allen is the club’s goalie of the future and all signs point to him carrying at starter’s workload next season, as Hutton has been a career backup.

Speaking of Hutton, he moves on from Nashville after spending the last three seasons as Pekka Rinne‘s No. 2. The 30-year-old posted a .918 save percentage and 2.33 GAA last year, but only had 17 appearances as Rinne proved to be a big workhorse for the Preds.

Hutton should be in line for a few more starts in St. Louis, as Allen adjusts to being the clear-cut No. 1 for the first time in his career. But make no mistake, Allen is being counted on to be “the guy” for the Blues next season — and beyond.

Brouwer lands in Calgary — four years, $18 million

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Calgary has added some physicality to its young, talented forward group — per TSN, veteran winger Troy Brouwer has agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with the Flames.

The contract will pay Brouwer $4.5M annually, slightly up from the $3.66M he made on his previous deal. The 30-year-old played well last season — his first and only with the Blues — scoring 18 goals during the regular season, then really upping his value in the playoffs with eight goals in 20 games.

It’s easy to see why Calgary wanted to add Brouwer to the mix. The likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and company are extremely gifted offensively, but not the toughest or largest group on earth.

Brouwer, meanwhile, is 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, and is a good net-front presence with a nose for finding the back of the net. He also finished third on the Blues in hits last year, with 200.

If there’s another key element Brouwer will bring to Calgary, it’s experience. He’s played for three different teams over his 10-year career, and captured a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010. As mentioned above, this year’s playoff exploits with St. Louis probably played a role in his deal with the Flames, as the club is looking to get back to the postseason after missing last year.

Boston signs former Blues captain Backes — five years, $30 million (Update: re-signed Liles, too)


Boston wasted little time finding a replacement for Loui Eriksson.

The B’s have landed former St. Louis captain David Backes with a five-year, $30 million extension — one that carries a $6 million average annual cap hit, per Sportsnet.

Backes, 32, had previously spent his entire 10-year career with the Blues and is coming off a pretty solid ’15-16 — 21 goals and 45 points during the regular season, seven goals and 14 points in 20 playoff games.

A big, physical and tough forward that can play both center and wing, Backes checks a lot of boxes for Boston. He definitely fits the “Big Bad Bruins” mold, and has some good leadership qualities, having worn the “C” in St. Louis for the last five years.

As mentioned above, the Bruins needed to fill a gap in the top six forward group with the exodus of Eriksson, who signed with Vancouver to kick off free agency.

Speaking of exoduses, this is a significant one for the Blues. Backes had been the face of the franchise over the last few seasons but, with the team now being turned over to youngsters like Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, Backes was allowed to leave.

His exit came after two other highly visible Blues — Barret Jackman and T.J. Oshie — also departed.

UPDATE: Boston has also re-upped with veteran d-man John-Michael Liles, who they acquired from Carolina at the deadline. It’s a one-year, $2 million deal, per Cap Friendly, and shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Last night, we passed along word the Bruins were having “very productive talks” with Liles. Makes sense, given how badly the B’s need help on defense.

Sabres reel in ‘big fish’ Okposo with seven-year, $42 million deal


At the draft, Sabres GM Tim Murray said he would “chase the big fish” in free agency.

Didn’t take him long to hook one.

Murray made one of the biggest early splashes on the opening day of free agency, signing former Isles winger Kyle Okposo to a seven-year, $42 million deal, per TSN.

That’s a $6M AAV for Okposo, and a really nice pay bump from the $2.8M he was making on his previous contract.

Okposo, 28, had spent his entire nine-year career with the Isles prior to this move. He’s been a pretty consistent goalscorer over the last three season, averaging 22 goals per, and has cracked the 60-point plateau in two of his last three campaigns.

In Buffalo, he’ll be reunited with a familiar face in Matt Moulson, his former Islanders running mate. It remains to be seen who Okposo’s center will be, though there’s no shortage of quality options with Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel slotted in as the club’s top two pivots.

While Okposo wasn’t Buffalo’s No. 1 target — that was Steve Stamkos, who went off the market on Wednesday by re-upping with Tampa — the club was looking to add some more veteran presences to insulate youngsters like Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons.

Murray was also looking to make more of a splash after failing to land a marquee player in consecutive free agent periods. He believes it’s time for the Sabres to make a significant leap forward.

“We want to get going here,” Murray said, per the Buffalo News. “We made up a big chunk last year and everybody says, ‘Well, you had no choice,’ and I kind of agree with that, to be truthful. But it’s time to take another big jump.”

As expected, Oilers ink Lucic to massive seven-year, $42 million deal


Edmonton has found its new top-line left wing.

Just days after trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey in a blockbuster deal for Adam Larsson, the Oilers have inked one of the biggest prizes available in free agency — former Bruins and Kings power forward Milan Lucic.

Per Sportsnet, it’s a seven-year deal worth $42 million. That’s good for a $6M average annual cap hit, which is the same money Lucic pulled down annually on his previous deal.

This contract reunites Lucic with his former GM in Boston, Peter Chiarelli, who has drastically made over the Edmonton roster this week. Lucic will give the Oilers even more “snarl” — something the club had a decent amount of in the form of fellow big-bodied forwards Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian.

Lucic, though, should play a far more prominent role than both.

It’s expected he could open as a top-line winger next to Connor McDavid, which could put Lucic back on track for 30 goals — a mark he hasn’t hit since 2010-11. The 28-year-old would also (presumably) serve as an unofficial bodyguard for McDavid.