Pat LaFontaine is once again employed by the NHL.
The Hockey Hall of Famer, who left his post with the department of player safety to become Buffalo Sabres president last November, has reportedly re-joined the Deputy Commissioner’s Office as the vice president of hockey development and community affairs, per TSN.
LaFontaine, 49, had a ballyhooed return to Buffalo last year, re-joining the organization alongside Ted Nolan in what many saw as a “welcome home” reception. The honeymoon period with Sabres didn’t last long, however, as LaFontaine abruptly resigned one day after the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade with St. Louis, setting off a firestorm of rumors in the process.
Tim Murray, the GM hired to replace Darcy Regier, said he and LaFontaine had a good working relationship in Buffalo and shot down the theory him coming aboard had anything to do with LaFontaine leaving.
“We were on the same page,” Murray said. “I was brought in here for the rebuild and we were on the same page with that. I’ve been here for six weeks and probably on the road for four of those scouting.
“Every phone call I got concerning trades was relayed to Pat. There was never any indication that we weren’t on the same page.”
Later, a report surfaced that LaFontaine signed a non-disclosure agreement with the Sabres after he resigned.
Forwards Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott provided the St. Louis Blues with veteran leaders and grit to help round out their lineup, but their brief tenure with the team might be over.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong wanted to keep Ott, but the talks with his camp have “gone quiet” while Morrow’s agent, Brad Devin said there’s “no news to report” regarding his client, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
After locking up most of the team’s biggest unrestricted free agents well in advance, Armstrong wants to keep his options open ahead of the draft so that he has the financial flexibility necessary to trade for a second-line center if the opportunity arises. Armstrong still hasn’t ruled out re-signing Ott and is open to bringing back Morrow even if he tests the free agent waters first, but in both cases, they would have to be willing to sign within the Blues’ guidelines.
“We want to do fair contracts, but we don’t want to be anybody’s retirement package,” Armstrong said.
The Blues have nearly $22 million in cap space left, but they have to re-sign restricted free agents Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Jaden Schwartz, in addition to ideally acquiring the second-line center. On top of that, the Blues don’t anticipate spending to the ceiling in 2014-15.
The St. Louis Blues have confirmed that they’ve signed goaltender Brian Elliott to a three-year deal. The contract is worth $7.5 million, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.
With that, it looks like the Ryan Miller era in St. Louis is over. The Blues gave up Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, their 2015 first round pick, and 2016 third round pick (assuming Miller’s rights aren’t traded as the conditional picks situation gets more complicated if they are) in exchange for Miller and forward Steve Ott on Feb. 28. When the deal was made, it looked like the Blues would be serious Stanley Cup contenders.
It didn’t work out like that as St. Louis ended up losing in the first round to the Chicago Blackhawks. Miller finished with a lackluster 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage in the playoffs.
Instead, Elliott is likely to compete for the starting job with 23-year-old goaltender Jake Allen, who Blues GM Doug Armstrong previously indicated would be one of the team’s two netminders in 2014-15. Allen is highly regarded by St. Louis and is coming off a strong AHL campaign where he posted a 2.03 GAA and .928 save percentage in 52 games.
Elliott had a 1.96 GAA and .922 save percentage in 31 contests in 2013-14.
The St. Louis Blues must deal with their second consecutive first-round exit on Sunday, but as painful as that might be, it seems like a good chunk of the team seems to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
The general feeling seems to be that the Blues are this close to breaking through, at least depending upon who’s talking.
Considering that management went all-in by acquiring (likely rental) Ryan Miller at the trade deadline, T.J. Oshie echoed the sentiment that this would be their big push.
While Oshie seems to lament the missed opportunity, Steve Ott seems to back up the “tweak instead of blow things up” notion.
Don’t make any mistake about it, though: there are plenty of Blues who are fed up with following up strong regular seasons with quick playoff exits.
Ott might say that they’re only a step or two away from being on the other side of the handshake lines.
The heavy hitting between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues continues.
In the third period of Monday’s Game 3, Blues’ forward Steve Ott drilled Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith hard into the side boards. There was no call on the play.
Earlier in the game, Blues’ forward Maxim Lapierre was called for boarding when he slammed Blackhawks’ blue liner Sheldon Brookbank from behind into the end boards. This physical element in this series between two Central Division rivals wasn’t just restricted to the third game.
The Blackhawks were without defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was serving the first game of a three-game suspension for his high and late hit on Blues’ center David Backes in Game 2.
Keith is at the center of controversy for allegedly taunting Backes when he was struggling to his feet after the Seabrook hit.