T.J. Oshie was in no hurry to leave the St. Louis Blues, but the fan favorite definitely knew it was a possibility.
That possibility became reality Thursday when the Blues dealt Oshie to the Washington Capitals for right winger Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round pick.
“My initial reaction was a little bit of shock, even though I knew it was a possibility,” said Oshie, who played his first seven NHL seasons with the Blues after joining the team as a first-round draft pick in 2005. “After a couple minutes I started getting excited and just was really excited to go on to the next chapter of my career.”
The 28-year-old Oshie burst onto the national and international scene after scoring on four of six attempts in a shootout to lead Team USA to a victory over Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
His NHL totals include 110 goals and 310 points in 443 games, along with five goals and nine points in 30 playoff contests.
Oshie thrilled fans with his speed and skill and became one of the franchise’s most popular players. He scored more than 20 goals only once (21 in 2013-14) but had at least 19 goals in three of the last four seasons.
“It’s been amazing for me,” Oshie said. “Honestly, the Blues fans took me in right from the get-go, even before I got there when I was in college, and treated me really well all the way through. I’ve got to give a big thanks to them for all their support through the good times and the bad.
“If you would have asked me last summer, I would’ve said I was probably going to reitre as a Blue.”
Oshie’s playoff scoring output, like several of his teammates, was less than thrilling, He had one goal and one assist in six playoff games this season and five goals and nine points in 30 career postseason games.
Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong has been talking about a potential change to the team’s veteran nucleus since the disappointing first-round playoff exit against Minnesota.
“We’re getting a different style of player,” Armstrong said of Brouwer. “We’re getting a consistent 20-goal scorer and those have value in the league. We’re getting a real big body that can play, a high-minute player. It’s a different style of player than T.J.
“T.J’s a very good player also, they’re different types of players. We probably have more players in our group like T.J. and less like Troy. That’s probably the easiest way to explain it.”
Brouwer, 29, tied his career scoring high with 43 points last season on 19 goals and 22 assists in 82 games. The 6-foot-2, 214-pound forward played with the Chicago Blackhawks for five of his nine NHL seasons, winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010.
He has 132 goals, 255 points and 395 penalty minutes in 531 NHL games.
“I’m an honest player,” Brouwer said. “I’m a guy that works hard and I’ve got some skill to me, I can make some plays. I’ve been able to score some goals, but I’m a big body, a power forward. I like to play in front of the net, in the corner, finish checks and play a hard-nosed game. I’ll fight when I need to.
“I like to feel I’m a pretty well rounded player with the ability to score 20-25, hopefully 30 goals, but also be able to finish my checks and be a very reliable guy with the Blues.”
Brouwer also has seven goals and 19 points in 78 career playoff games, but notched only three assists in 14 playoffs games this spring. He’s a versatile forward who plays a physical style and can contribute on the power play, penalty kill and is also a valuable faceoff man.
“He certainly comes with a high recommendation from former teammates and people that we know, a strong character person,” Armstrong said. “I think it just fits into what I think you need to have success. He’s a Stanley Cup champion and he’s been on some very good teams in Washington. That size is something you can’t teach, and that ability to play a heavy game.
“If you look at our conference, you have to play with size and play with strength.”
Armstrong thinks the move adds size and versatility.
“Ken’s toying with the idea of playing David Backes on the right wing, so if you see a right wing of Backes, Tarasenko and Brouwer, those are big heavy bodies that all bring a different element to the game,” Armstrong said. “I think we have the ability on a nightly basis to wear teams down and compete at a high level.”
Oshie heard the trade rumors, but admitted it was still a bit of a stunner.
Some felt there may have been perceived rift between Oshie and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, but Oshie said that was more a case of the media blowing things out of proportion.
When the Blues decided to bring Hitchcock back for another season, did Oshie read anything into that?
“I did feel with the players in that locker room that we were falling short, but if we went back with the same team that we would have hopefully learned from some of our mistakes,” Oshie said. “But after I saw Hitch was coming back, I figured there would be at least one or two moves that Army would want to make.”
One of the biggest was to trade Oshie in a move that changes the landscape from a roster and financial standpoint. Oshie has two more years remaining on his contract and would count as a $4.1 million salary cap hit next season.
Brouwer is in the final year of a $3.66 million deal and can become an unrestricted free agent in July, 2016. The Blues, who still must sign restricted free agents Vladimir Tarasenko and Jake Allen, also allowed veteran defenseman Barret Jackman to leave sign a two-year deal with Nashville.
The Blues signed restricted free agent defenseman Robert Bortuzzo to a two-year contract extension Thursday worth $2.1 million. Bortuzzo and Petteri Lindbohm are expected to grab the fifth and sixth spots on defense.
Armstrong indicated he isn’t done dealing. Later Thursday the Blues signed former Minnesota Wild center Kyle Brodziak, who had nine goals and 20 points in 73 games last season.
The 23-year-old Copley (6-3, 174) was 17-4-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average in the American Hockey League last season for the Hershey Bears. The former Michigan Tech goalie also had three shutouts and a .925 save percentage and gives the Blues a more experienced backup goaltender in case of injury to Jake Allen or Brian Elliott.
The next goalie on the depth chart is Jordan Binnington of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
Oshie was asked about playing on the Capitals power play with two of the league’s most dynamic scorers and playmakers, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom,
“It would be something I’ve never experienced before,” Oshie said. “I’ve always played with very good players and players that have played in the Olympics, but never players that have put up numbers like those two have.
“To get out there with those two would be amazing. I’m willing to come in and earn all the ice time I can get.”