Tag: Steve Ott

Alexander Steen, David Backes, Steve Ott

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT


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.

Ovechkin thinks very little of plus/minus

Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the fourth time last season with 51 goals, but perhaps the statistic that sticks out most from his 2013-14 campaign is his minus-35 rating.

It was the worst in Washington by 14 points and third from the bottom in 2013-14. He also joined Toronto’s Phil Kessel as the only members of the top-10 goal scoring list to finish with a negative plus/minus rating.

He used that as ammunition when he was recently asked how he felt by the end of last season.

“I am very happy that I didn’t become the worst in the plus/minus category,” Ovechkin told SovSport in an interview translated by Puck Daddy. “I had minus-35. Steve Ott and Alex Edler jumped ahead of me. Can you imagine scoring 51 goals and getting minus-40? I would have made history!”

The interviewer brought up Sergei Gonchar’s past criticism about the use of plus/minus and Ovechkin took that opportunity to expand on the point.

“With the help of the plus/minus contracts can be obtained,” the 28-year-old forward said. “Once our defenseman Jeff Schultz was plus-50. He was plus-5 in the last game. And he signed a contract for four years averaging $2.75 million [Ovechkin makes big eyes]. And then his contract was bought out, and he signed for only $700,000 a year. Jeff is a good guy. But these plus/minus stats say very little about a player himself or the game as a whole.”

While plus/minus might not always be a great reflection of how a player performed, it is fair to say that the Capitals as a team had defensive issues last season. They hope some of that will be addressed by allowing goaltender Braden Holtby to play a style that he’s more comfortable with, the additions of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and bringing in Barry Trotz to serve as the team’s head coach.

That last change will impact Ovechkin, but for now he’s taking a wait-and-see approach. He acknowledged it’s difficult to change, but he’s been through this several times over the last few years, so he knows what to expect.

Sobotka gets one-year, $2.7M deal from arbitrator, will play in KHL next season

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 21: Vladimir Sobotka #17 of the St. Louis Blues takes the puck in the first period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on January 21, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka was awarded a one-year deal in club-elected salary arbitration on Monday, but will still play the 2014-15 season in the KHL after inking a contract with Avangard Omsk two weeks ago.

Per the Post-Dispatch, the arbitrator awarded Sobotka $2.725 million for the single-year pact.

Here’s the official release, from the Blues:

St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong announced today that forward Vladimir Sobotka has been awarded a one-year contract through arbitration.

Sobotka will play the for Avangard Omsk in the KHL for the 2014-15 season. The terms of his arbitration contract will be enforced when Sobotka returns to the NHL.

“We are looking forward to having Vladimir in a Blues uniform when he returns to the NHL,” said Armstrong. “We wish him the best of luck in the upcoming season.”

Sobotka, 27, inked the deal to play in Russia following acrimonious contract negotiations with the Blues. In response to the development, Armstrong set about explaining St. Louis’ offers to Sobotka, saying the Blues tabled a multi-year deal (three, four, or five years, “at [Sobotka’s] choice”) at “north of $3 million” per season. Sobotka was then offered a one-year deal at $2.7 million per, or a two-year deal at $3 million per.

“Those haven’t got it done to this point,” Armstrong said.

To give an idea of how tight negotiations were, consider what Sobotka’s agent — ex-NHLer Petr Svoboda — had to say in the aftermath.

“[Blues general manager Doug Armstrong] started at $2.4 million (for one season) and he came up to $2.7 million, so he gave me his best number,” Svoboda told the Post-Dispatch. “We were at one year, $3 million.

“Basically it was over $300,000. There was no room for negotiation. It was one year at $2.7 (million) — take it.”

Once the Blues learned of Sobotka’s move to the KHL, they quickly inked free agent center Steve Ott to a new deal.

Armstrong lays out what Blues offered KHL-bound Sobotka


St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong couldn’t confirm today’s report that center Vladimir Sobotka had signed a three-year deal with Omsk of the KHL, at an annual salary of around $4 million.

But what Armstrong did say is this — in June, the Blues offered Sobotka a multi-year deal (three, four, or five years, “at his choice”) at “north of $3 million” per season. The 27-year-old restricted free agent was last offered a one-year deal at $2.7 million per, or a two-year deal at $3 million per.

“Those haven’t got it done to this point,” Armstrong told reporters this morning.

But Armstrong is holding out hope that the player will one day — hopefully soon — be wearing the Blues’ uniform again. And he still intends to attend Sobotka’s arbitration hearing on July 21.

“An award will be given and that will be his contract for the ’14-15 season,” he said. “We hope that he’ll be at training camp under that contract. If he’s in the KHL, that contract will toll until future years.”

According to the aforementioned report, Sobotka’s KHL contract has an out following each season, at which point he can choose to return to the NHL.

Clearly, Armstrong wants Sobotka to know he’d be welcomed back with open arms.

“I just want to emphasize that this is a business decision by Vlad that I respect,” said Armstrong. “It does not change my admiration for him as a man and how he plays and what he’s accomplished and what he’s going to accomplish.

“I don’t want to turn this into a personal thing or get it to that point, because it’s not like that.”

Related: Blues re-sign Steve Ott; Sobotka to KHL?

Blues re-sign Ott; Sobotka to KHL?

Steve Ott

Steve Ott is staying in St. Louis. The veteran forward has signed a two-year, $5.2 million contract with the Blues, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch.

In a possibly related story, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is “hearing” that restricted free agent Vladimir Sobotka, who the Blues were taking to arbitration, has signed with Omsk of the KHL.

Ott had no goals and just three assists in 23 regular-season games for the Blues after he was traded from Buffalo, along with Ryan Miller, in February. The 31-year-old followed up with no goals and two assists in six playoff games, as St. Louis fell to Chicago in the first round.

But Ott was not signed to lead the Blues in scoring. He’s good in the faceoff circle and led St. Louis in hits (29) during the postseason. A former captain of the Sabres, he’s also considered a leader.

Whether that’s worth $5.2 million over two years, well, apparently general manager Doug Armstrong believes it is. Especially, we suppose, if Sobotka is off to the KHL.