Coming home: Blues sign Stastny to 4-year deal

News-DemocratJuly 1, 2014 

Leaving the Colorado Avalanche behind to sign with the Central Division rival St. Louis Blues was extremely difficult for free-agent center Paul Stastny.

"I was in a good position, I think I had teams interested and good teams interested -- and obviously the Avs were always one of those teams," said Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million deal Tuesday to join the Blues. "In the end you have to try to take a step back and try take all the emotion out of it, try to realize what's best for me hockey-wise.

"My family and my fiancee and I thought that St. Louis would probably be the best hockey decision for me."

In a bold move to upgrade an area they have been lacking in recent seasons, the Blues made one of the biggest free-agent investments in recent memory by luring Stastny to St. Louis.

Stastny, 28, was said to be their top target all along.

He just finished a five-year, $33 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche and had 25 goals and 60 points in 71 games last season.

The deal includes a no-trade clause and will pay Stastny $6.5 million next season, then two years at $7 million and the final year at $7.5 million.

"(With Colorado) they're young and still developing, you never know what's going to happen down the road," Stastny said. "I look at St. Louis and their window to win a (Stanley) Cup is now and for the next seven or eight years. That's why I'm excited."

The Blues laid the groundwork for a potential deal last week during the NHL's early free-agency period where teams could speak to players and agents.

Before it was done, Armstrong and coach Ken Hitchcock spoke with Stastny, Armstrong handled things with agent Matt Keator.

"We felt he was our No. 1 choice and we were hoping it would be reciprocated, and it was," Armstrong said. "You don't want to put pressure on a player to make a decision before he's ready, but there's an obligation to the franchise to try not to get shut out of everything."

The Blues acted quickly and the deal came together.

"Try and just tidy up the loose ends of how it's going to be paid," Armstrong said. "You put it in a bow and all of a sudden you've got a four-year, $28 million deal sitting there."

The Blues were also rumored to be in the mix for Ottawa veteran center Jason Spezza, but Spezza was traded to Dallas earlier Tuesday morning.

"I was certainly hoping we were going to get into the final grouping (for Stastny)," Armstrong said. "I was a little bit nervous this morning when Dallas made their acquisition, what our Plan B would be. We never got to there but Paul was certainly someone we had focused on.

"The five-day window of opportunity allowed us to speak to him and as the week progressed and there was no news that he had signed (back with Colorado), we thought he was going getting closer to the market. We thought if he got to the market we would be a very good fit for him."

In his career, the son of former Blues forward and scout and Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Stastny has 160 goals and 458 points in 538 games.

The younger Stastny was born in Quebec, but grew up in St. Louis and attended high school here for two years at Chaminade.

He is the third member of his family to play for the Blues, following father Peter Stastny and brother Yan Stastny.

"I wanted to go somewhere I was comfortable with and somewhere that I know the lay of the land a little bit," Paul Stastny said. "I went to school in Denver and I've been here for 10 years, so to me I've got two homes."

Having his family here and being familiar with St. Louis certainly were factors in the decision.

Armstrong said the signing of Stastny and another young center, former Blues draft pick Jori Lehtera, provides even more flexibility for the top three lines.

Armstrong said Stastny could potentially center a line with David Backes and Alexander Steen on the wings, returning Backes to his natural right wing position.

The other top lines could see Lehtera centering Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka centering T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund.

Both Armstrong and Stastny said the Blues' wealth of puck-moving offensive defensemen made St. Louis a little more attractive as a destination.

"That's when I've been most successful, whether it's World Championships or Olympics," Stastny said. "It's easier to read off those guys, they find the open player and they're offensive guys."

Armstrong said the Blues' two center signings Tuesday were a definite upgrade for the top three lines.

"We were not asking anyone to come in here with a cape on and be Superman," Armstrong said. "We're just looking for another strong piece to the puzzle that can keep us competitive. Both these players can make their wingers better.

"We haven't had a true center iceman with top-end passing skills and I think both of those guys can find their wingers. Obviously I'm betting a lot of money that we're more difficult to defend to today than we were two days ago."

Before making Stastny the highest-paid player on the Blues, Armstrong discussed the potential signing with team leaders Backes and Steen.

"Both players to their credit -- not surprisingly, but I wanted to ask the question -- said 'We want to win, you do what you have to do to make us a better team,''' Armstrong said. "With that knowledge it was much easier to move forward."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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