Shattenkirk says chemistry will carry Blues next season

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After talking about the Blues all day today, we know plenty about how disappointing things have been in St. Louis after three straight seasons with disappointing finishes.

Fortunately for Blues fans, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is looking on the bright side of life. Rather than dwelling on not reaching the ultimate goal and bringing the franchise its first Stanley Cup, he’s using those defeats as motivation as he told Chris Lomon at the NHLPA website.

“The one great thing about this group is that through the disappointments, team chemistry is through the roof,” noted Shattenkirk. “It’s a very close locker room and everyone sticks together. That’s something I learned from the moment I came to St. Louis. I think the guys we’ve added will experience the same thing. We know we haven’t done what we’ve set out to accomplish. We also know that’s the one thing we’re focused on.”

With the addition of Paul Stastny to the roster the Blues are truly in “go for it” mode. One area they don’t have to worry about is defense.

Shattenkirk’s play on the blue line has been a big reason why the Blues have been so strong on the back end. Teamed up with Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, the Blues defense is a legitimate strength. Swapping the slow-footed but physical Roman Polak for sure-handed Carl Gunnarsson this summer was an under-the-radar move that could pay off handsomely as well.

It’s virtually the same team that they had last season. Chemistry shouldn’t be a problem with this club and neither should motivation.

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The St. Louis Blues.

It’s been like a sad movie on repeat the past few seasons for the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have had brilliant regular season performances sullied by crushing disappointment in the playoffs. Two years in a row it was the Los Angeles Kings ousting them from the postseason. Last season, it was their hated rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, giving them the boot in the first round.

Before the playoffs began, it seemed like it was all set up for St. Louis to make a deep run. They acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres to help give them the boost they felt they needed in goal and the agitating penalty killer you need in the postseason.

Adding those two to go along with captain David Backes, surprising goal-scoring maven Alex Steen, rising Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko, Team USA standout T.J. Oshie, and young stud Jaden Schwartz gave the Blues the depth up front they’d been lacking.

With the forwards seemingly set and a defensive corps led by Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester the road to the Cup Final was there for the taking. Of course, things don’t always go how they’re drawn up.

Miller struggled in St. Louis. Whether that was due to the Blues tinkering with his positioning in net or not, the same bad goals Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott gave up in years past were also beating Miller. That combined with the Blues inability to keep up with the Blackhawks scorers netted Ken Hitchcock’s team yet another early start on the summer.

Suffice to say, if there are more playoff struggles next season there could be hell to pay.

Offseason Recap

The Blues were one of the most active teams of the summer.

They signed former Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny to a four-year, $28 million deal. He gives the Blues a true No. 1 center and a guy who is strong at both ends of the ice. While Backes was their top center last year, adding Stastny may help move him to the wing. That’s luxury.

St. Louis also re-signed Ott but lost Vladimir Sobotka to the KHL. That trade-off is one that made some scratch their heads as Sobotka is younger and seemed to be a perfect player with the Blues. Ott’s veteran abilities were valued by Hitchcock, however, and that always works out to have the coach on your side.

They also parted ways with Miller opting instead to keep Elliott and make him the starter and potentially give Jake Allen his chance to shine. Acquiring Miller brought on scrutiny for GM Doug Armstrong and the decision to let him walk to sign with the Vancouver Canucks will be put under the microscope.

The Blues also added forwards Jori Lehtera from the KHL and Peter Mueller from Switzerland. They also dealt Roman Polak to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Carl Gunnarsson. Blues fans may need a scorecard or a really sweet phone app to know who they’re rooting for next season.

Flames re-sign Cundari to one-year deal

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It’s the signing you’ve all been waiting for this summer.

The Calgary Flames announced they’ve re-signed depth defenseman Mark Cundari to a one-year two-way deal. He appeared in four games for the Flames last season just as he did the season prior. In eight career games in the NHL, he has a goal and two assists.

Cundari, 24, was acquired from the St. Louis Blues on April 1, 2013 in the deal that sent Jay Bouwmeester out of Calgary. He’ll compete against Tyler Wotherspoon for a shot at the Flames opening day roster, but the 5-foot-9 200 pound blue liner is expected to spend most of next season in Glens Falls, NY with the Adirondack Flames.

Blues add d-man depth, sign ex-Flame Butler

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With one of the NHL’s deepest bluelines, St. Louis didn’t appear a team in need of defensive reinforcements — but that’s exactly what the club got on Wednesday, signing former Calgary rearguard Chris Butler to a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level.

Butler, 27, has spent the last three seasons with the Flames after being acquired from Buffalo in the Robyn Regehr trade of 2011 and was a major presence for Calgary last year — he appeared in all 82 games (the only Flame to do so) while averaging over 20 minutes a night, finishing with 16 points.

With the Blues, Butler will be in a fight for a roster spot behind Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Carl Gunnarsson, Barret Jackman, Jordan Leopold and Ian Cole.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Butler — who has represented the United States internationally three times, including the 2013 World Championships — was born and played his high school hockey in St. Louis, so this new deal represents a homecoming.

Babcock has been ‘all over’ Holland to get more right-shooting d-men

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When Mike Babcock coached Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, he had Duncan Keith, a lefty, on a defensive pair with Shea Weber, a righty, then Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a lefty, with Drew Doughty, a righty, then Jay Bouwmeester, a lefty, with Alex Pietrangelo, a righty.

This was not a coincidence. This was the plan. And it worked out rather well.

Next season in Detroit, Babcock is hoping he can have something a bit closer to that for his Red Wings.

“I just think it’s so much easier when you have a right and lefty on every pair,” he said this weekend, per MLive. “All you got to do is look at L.A. (Stanley Cup champion Kings), a right and lefty on every pair. Makes it easier to get through the neutral zone, easier off D-zone faceoffs to execute. You have the puck more. You can get it off the wall and shoot it in the offensive zone. To me it just makes sense.”

At the moment, the Wings are overloaded with lefties. Which is why there’s been so much speculation surrounding pending unrestricted free agents Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen, each of whom shoot right. Anton Stralman and Tom Gilbert are other pending UFA righties, with general manager Ken Holland under pressure to come away with at least one of them.

The challenge for Holland is all the other teams that will be pursuing those guys. If the GM fails to land at least one, don’t expect the coach to be pleased.

“I’ve been all over [Holland],” said Babcock, “but there’s no tree to grab them off of, so we’ll get what we get.”

Related: Niskanen’s agent is confident he can get 7-year deal for ‘premier defenseman in the free agent market’