The St. Louis Blues dropped a bit of a bombshell Friday night at the NHL Draft in Buffalo by trading veteran goaltender Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames.
In exchange, the Blues received Calgary’s 2016 second-round pick (35th overall) and a conditional third-round pick in 2018. After trading with Washington to move up two spots in the first round to the 26th spot, the Blues selected University of Connecticut center Tage Thompson.
The trade makes Jake Allen the Blues’ immediate starter in goal and could put them in the market for a backup goaltender unless the club believes Anders Nilsson is capable of grabbing that job. Allen was the Blues’ starter for most of the first half of the season, but Elliott replaced him once Allen was injured and led the team down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Nilsson, 26, is a restricted free agent. The next two goalies on the depth chart are prospects Pheonix Copley and Jordan Binnington.
“Elliott has been a very good goaltender for us,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said in a release. “He’s been a really good Blue and we’re going to miss him.”
After speaking with Elliott’s agent after the season, Armstrong indicated the agent wanted hi to “explore options” if Elliott wasn’t going to be the No 1 goalie here next season. Elliott will make $2.5 million next season in the final year of his current contract. He can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
On the Blues’ website, Armstrong spoke of negotiating a long-term deal with Allen.
“He’s the goalie of today and the future,” Armstrong said.
Allen turns 26 in August. He is 57-26-7 in parts of four seasons with the Blues, including a 2.34 goals-against average, 11 shutouts and a .915 save percentage. During the playoffs, Allen is 3-5 in 12 games (eight starts) with a 2.29 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
“It’s just the nature of the business and the profession that we’re in,” Allen said. “Trades happen and it’s unfortunate to see ‘Ells’ go, not just from a hockey perspective but from a friends perspective as well. He was a backbone for this team and I wish him the best, but I’m really looking forward to getting my opportunity.”
There always seemed to be a bit of uncertainty about the Blues’ No. 1 goalie when Allen and Elliott were both healthy and playing. Allen got the nod in the 2015 playoffs and was the starter to open the season, but once Allen was injured Elliott seized control of the net and never relented.
“This helps a little bit, it really does,” Allen said. “You know that you’re going to be given every opportunity and there’s not going to be questions here or there on who’s playing. I think I play my best when I’m always rolling and always playing. It will be exciting to get going at the start of the year.
“It will be definitely be different. You’re friends and teammates ... it’s going to be different and we’re all going to miss him, but I’m sure he’s going to have success in Calgary.”
Elliott, 31, helped carry the Blues to a strong finish this season and was a big reason they made their first Western Conference Final appearance since 2001. Elliott was 23-8-6 in 42 games this season with a 2.-7 goals-against average and four shutouts. His .930 save percentage led the NHL and Elliott also had four shutouts.
During the playoffs, Elliott went 9-9 with a 2.44 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. He started all but one of the Blues’ playoff contests.
After joining the Blues in 2011, Elliott compiled a 104-46-16 record with the Blues while recording 25 shutouts. He had a 2.01 goals-against average and .925 save percentage while with the Blues.
Blues draft Tage Thompson
After trading their 28th pick and the 87th pick to move up to the 26th spot, the Blues selected 6-foot-5 University of Connecticut center Tage Thompson.
Thompson led the NCAA with 13 power-play goals as a freshman last season and had 14 goals and 32 points in 36 games overall, playing on a line with Blues 2014 third-round pick Maxim Letunov.
Thompson is the son of former NHL defenseman Brent Thompson, who was in the league from 1991 to 1997 with Los Angeles, Winnipeg and Phoenix. Brent Thompson now coaches Bridgeport in the American Hockey League and coached previously with the Blues’ Peoria Rivermen minor-league affiliate.
“It obviously helped so much to have a father who has played the game and is now into coaching,” Tage Thompson told the Hartford Courant. “He’s been around the sport his entire life and growing up with him helped show me what it takes to get there. He’s given me advice that’s had a huge impact on my game and development. And his competitiveness is definitely a part of who I am as a player.”