The St. Louis Blues took another big step toward solidifying their defense unit by agreeing to terms with veteran Jordan Leopold on new two-year contract extension worth $4.5 million.
Two of the major attributes Leopold brings to the team are "His professionalism, but also his ease in the locker room," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "He has that personality that I'm starting to understand, he's just asn easy guy to talk toand easy to be around.
"(Blues assistant coach) Brad Shaw told me that he's an excellent commnuicatior on the bench, knows what it's going to take for us to get to the next level."
The 32-year-old Leopold was an unrestricted free agent who had two assists in 15 games with the Blues last season after coming over in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
"He was here for a short period of time and I thought that his experience was something that was beneficial to our team," Armstrong said. "He and (Kevin) Shattenkirk found a comfort level with each other."
In 10 NHL seasons and 625 games, Leopold has 65 goals, 204 points and 268 penalty minutes. He was coming off a three-year, $9 million deal with the Sabres.
Assuming the Blues will sign restricted free agent Alex Pietrangelo to a long-term deal, their deep defense corps includes Leopold, Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Ian Cole.
"I think that gives us maybe one of the strongest defenses in the league with both expeience and youth," Armstrong said. "It's something that's a good fit for us. Having (Leopold) for the next couple years just solidified that group."
Veteran Blues defenseman Kris Russell was placed on waivers Tuesday after he received a qualifying offer from the Blues. He cleared waivers Wednesday, so the Blues retain his rights.
"Right now we're talking to Kris," Armstrong said. "We talked earlier about trying to see if we could come up with a compromise right when the season ended and we just couldn't agree on the compensation. That took me to a different area with Jordan."
The Blues could try to trade Russell, or keep him and head to training camp with an even deeper defense corps.
"Worst-case scenario or best-case scenario, however you want to look at it, we'll come to training camp with eight defenseman and he's show the versatilty to play left wing also," Armstrong said.