Blues veteran McDonald will hang up his skates

News-DemocratJune 6, 2013 

Veteran St. Louis Blues forward Andy McDonald is retiring after a long career citing post-concussion concerns, agent Steve Bartlett confirmed Thursday.

"I think it means a lot to him to leave the game on his own term and while healthy," Bartlett said.

The 35-year-old McDonald was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, but instead became the second Blues veteran forward to retire in as many days.

Former Blues center Scott Nichol announced his retirement Wednesday and accepted a job as Player Development Director with the Nashville Predators.

McDonald had seven goals and 21 points in 37 games with the Blues this season and did not score in six playoff contests. He joined the Blues in December 2007 as part of a trade for Doug Weight and was with the team for more than 5 1/2 seasons.

"He certainly maximized his talents and should be very proud of what he accomplished in this league," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "He was probably the most well-conditioned athlete we had here in St. Louis and probably spent more time taking care of his body than anyone in our organization."

In 294 games with the Blues, McDonald had 90 goals and 230 points. His NHL career totals, which include his time with the Anaheim Ducks, are 182 goals and 489 points in 685 games dating back to the 2000-01 season.

The former Colgate standout helped the Ducks to a Stanley Cup title in 2007.

"He's had an amazing career for a guy that went undrafted," Bartlett said. "He was one of those guys that's really a feel-good story for me as an agent. He kind of slipped through the radar through his normal draft year and by the time he finished up his college career I literally had six teams beating me over the head to try to sign him."

McDonald suffered five concussions during his career and missed 51 games because of a concussion and post-concussion syndrome during the 2011-12 season. As a result, he was one of the most educated players in the league when it came to learning everything he could about the condition and the latest treatments and research.

Bartlett said a concussion McDonald suffered before the 2004 NHL lockout was particularly tough.

"To be honest, I think both of us thought that one might have been career-threatening at that time," Bartlett said.

McDonald eased his way back by playing in Europe during the lockout and didn't miss a game the next two seasons in Anaheim.

"That probably gave him the comfort level to come back," Bartlett said of the European stint. "With many of my clients I've used him as a reference. When it comes to concussions, the first call I usually make is to Andy because he seems to know every treatment or every major medical breakthrough.

"He's been a great resource to me because he's lived it, breathed it and researched it."

Armstrong said McDonald's speed and skill are a large part of his legacy, along with the integral role he played during Anaheim's Stanley Cup championship season.

"He was a large part of that team that won the championship," Armstrong said. "On a personal reflection, you look at him and his skating was dynamic. It certainly made the opposition uncomfortable and opened up ice for himself and his teammates."

Lehtera will stay in KHL

Jori Lehtera, a 25-year-old center considered perhaps the Blues' top prospect, has rejected the NHL and signed a new two-year deal to remain in Russia's KHL pro league.

Lehtera, a native of Helsinki, Finland, was the Blues' third-round draft pick in 2008. He had 17 goals and 48 points in 52 games last season with Novosibirsk Siber in the KHL, his third season in the league.

Armstrong said the Blues tried to sign Lehtera with a significant contract offer and bring him to the NHL team late last season, too.

"I was certainly disappointed," Armstrong said. "We made a firm commitment to have him on our team. But after having a little time to reflect on it, I'm glad I found out now than in December.

"If he'd have just come for the money and his heart wasn't into competing in the NHL with the rigors of this schedule and the competition you face every night, I'm glad I found out now."

Armstrong believes Lehtera has the high-end skill to play in the NHL and has him rated above Blues prospects Ty Rattie and Dmitrij Jaskin.

"(Lehtera) had produced points at the KHL level and was certainly going to be worth the experiment to bring him over and put him in our top nine forwards, let him play with our most creative players to see what he had to offer this league," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said there is "nothing on the front burner" in regard to contract talks with any of the teams restricted free agents, including Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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