The St. Louis Blues removed one of the two final major restricted free agents from their summer list Friday, signing goaltender Jake Allen to a two-year deal worth $4.7 million, team officials said.
“It was my first real contract,” Allen said. “This was my first real negotiation where I understood the process behind it. It’s a lot of work but we got it done in plenty of time for the season. I wasn’t worried about going anywhere.”
The signing of Allen and former Minnesota Wild center Kyle Brodziak, who got a one-year $900,000 deal, leaves the Blues approximately $9.5 million under the NHL salary cap still needing to lock up star forward Vladimir Tarasenko with a multi-year deal, according to team officials. AlsoFriday, the Blues also signed winger Dmitrij Jaskin to a one-year extension worth a reported $775,000.
The Blues also signed recent fifth-round draft pick goaltender and Effingham native Luke Opilka to a three-year entry level contract. Opilka, 18, was originally slated to play for the University of Wisconsin, but instead will play with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers.
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Allen won 11 of his final 15 starts during the regular season and was named the starter for the first-round playoff series against Minnesota. The Blues lost that series in six games and Allen accepted more than his share of the blame.
“It was an experience, I’ll say that,” said Allen, who allowed six goals in the final two games after playing well earlier in the series. “It wasn’t the right experience that we wanted, but I’ll take it nonetheless. It still doesn’t sit well with me today and probably won’t for a while until next season. We’re just going to continue build on it with the group that we have and look for success.”
Allen, who turns 25 in August, was 22-7-4 last season with a 2.28 goals-against average, four shutouts and a .913 save percentage.
The 2008 second-round draft pick was 11-2-2 after Jan. 1 and led the NHL with a 1.78 goals-against average through the end of the regular season. Allen held teams to two goals or fewer in his final eight games, including allowing only four goals over his last four starts as he took over the No. 1 goaltender’s job from Brian Elliott.
It was Allen’s most extensive NHL experience after an earlier stint with the Blues in 2012-13 that saw him go 9-4 with a 2.46 goals-against average.
“I got my cup of coffee there a couple years ago and had to head back to the AHL,” Allen said. “It’s been a grind to solidify my position in the league, but I’m here now and I wanted to prove to the guys that I had the capability to do it last year. I think over the course of the year I showed them that. I definitely wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had without those guys.”
Jaskin, a second-round pick in 2011, had 13 goals and 18 points in 54 games last season as a rookie. Four of his 13 goals were game-winners.
Brodziak is expected to fill the role of fourth-line center and also is known as a solid penalty-killer. He had nine goals and 20 points in 73 games last season with the Wild. He has 98 goals and 228 points in 621 NHL games over 10 seasons with Minnesota and Edmonton. He also has three goals and eight points in 27 playoff contests and has faced the Blues numerous times throughout his career.
“The feeling I have about this team is they're going to be hungry, they're very excited and they're very close to being a contending team,” Brodziak said. “That's something that was really important to me. I've seen a lot of this team and they’re a team that I don’t think anybody in the league enjoys playing against. They play a very structured, sound type of game but also have that element of nastiness to them.”
Brodziak described himself as a solid two-way player hoping to make things happen all over the ice. He ranks seventh all-time in games played for the Wild (446) and eighth in both goals (72) and scoring (169 points).
“I try to take pride in being positionally sound and not making it easy for the other teams to generate any kind of good feeling or scoring chances,” he said. “I also think there's an offensive side that I haven’t really shown in the past couple years. I know it's there and I've just got to find a way to bring that back.”