Doug Armstrong was willing to do anything to keep David Backes, but he wouldn’t do long term.
The St. Louis Blues’ general manager said goodbye to the team’s captain for the past five seasons, who left to sign with the Boston Bruins, and made some complementary moves on the first day of NHL free agency.
Armstrong wasn’t willing to get close to the $30 million, five-year deal Backes got from the Bruins and said he’ll be sorely missed.
“I had no problem bringing David Backes back and I wish we could have,” Armstrong said on a conference call Friday. “I wasn’t comfortable on the term. To David’s credit, he found a team that was comfortable.”
Backes said “there wasn’t an agreement on term or on dollars” and came to grips with leaving the Blues, with whom he spent the first 10 years of his career. The Blues had to move on quickly and did so by signing 28-year-old winger David Perron and shoring up their goaltending situation.
St. Louis signed Perron to a $7.5 million, two-year deal, and he’ll play a role in replacing right wing Troy Brouwer, who left for an $18 million, four-year deal with the Calgary Flames. Perron returns to the team that drafted him 26th overall in 2007.
“He’s coming back as a much more mature player on and off the ice,” Armstrong said. “We view him as certainly a player that can play in the top nine. He’s versatile – he can play left wing or right wing. It gives the coach some options.”
Perron had 12 goals and 24 assists with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks last season and has 141 goals and 191 assists in 570 NHL games. He’ll count $3.75 million against the cap for the next two seasons.
The Blues also signed goaltender Jake Allen to a $17.4 million, four-year extension that begins with the 2017-18 season. Armstrong knew he’d be able to sign Allen after trading goalie Brian Elliott to the Flames at the draft.
“Everyone was on the feeling that it’s Jake’s team now, it’s Jake’s turn and it made it easy,” Armstrong said. “We really think that Jake is going to be a real good player, and he wants the ball and he’s got it now.”
Allen’s backup will be 30-year-old Carter Hutton, who had been stuck behind All-Star Pekka Rinne in Nashville. Hutton signed a two-year deal worth $2.25 million.
“A lot like Brian Elliott (Hutton is) a great competitor and a great teammate,” Armstrong said. “Someone that is looking to push Jake but also understands that he’s a mentor and a solid partner. There was a lot of positives with bringing him in. it just seemed like the proper guy that had the experience that Jake can lean on.”
Without Backes, Brouwer and Elliott, the Blues are weaker than they were when they lost to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference final. But Armstrong expects forward Vladimir Sobotka to return from the KHL for next season and hopes the core led by Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo and Jaden Schwartz continues to improve.
“We’re a younger team, we’re a different team and we’re going to be putting a lot of responsibility on the younger players,” Armstrong said.
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