AAA  Jul. 3, 2014 9:20 AM ET
Stastny sees more opportunity with Blues
Jeremy Rutherford, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)
McClatchy/Tribune - MCT Information Services
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Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk might be looking for a new residence in St. Louis following the team’s blockbuster signing Tuesday of free-agent center Paul Stastny.

“It’s funny, I rent (Paul’s brother) Yan’s apartment,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s a matter of whether I’ll be kicked out or Paul will find his own place.”

Shattenkirk was hoping for this problem, however, as were Stastny’s other U.S. Olympic teammates on the Blues’ roster — David Backes and T.J. Oshie. Earlier this year, the four Americans bonded for a couple of weeks in Sochi, Russia. And with Stastny at the time potentially headed for free agency in the NHL this offseason, they were hoping that bond could continue.

“He kept (the decision) pretty close to the chest for the most part,” Shattenkirk said. “I’m sure he had plenty of people talking to him and trying to pull him in every which direction. More than anything, I just said, ‘Good luck with the decision, hopefully you come to St. Louis and we’d love to have you.’”

On Tuesday, Stastny announced he indeed was coming to St. Louis, signing a four-year, $28 million contract with the Blues. Moments after the deal was revealed, he was asked if he felt any of his Blues buddies had put on their political hats, pining for his services.

“‘Shatty,’” Stastny replied before explaining, “but I think everyone knows that in the end, I don’t think a player is going to sway your decision, so I think they just had fun with it. (But) playing with those guys, knowing those guys obviously helps, makes it a little more comfortable knowing what I’m coming into.


Stastny, 28, is joining the Blues for one reason. Not because the city is “home,” or because he has friends on the roster. He has connections throughout the NHL, especially in Colorado, where he spent eight seasons with the Avalanche. His wedding-invitation list includes Avs players Erik Johnson, Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene, yet he turned down Colorado’s offer to return.

Stastny selected St. Louis because of the opportunity that he’ll be afforded on the ice — a spot on the team’s top line, a feature assignment on the No. 1 power-play unit and being paired with two sets of puck-moving defensemen.

“St. Louis had a little bit more for me than Colorado as a hockey player,” Stastny said.

General manager Doug Armstrong insisted that he would defer to the Blues’ coaching staff once the season starts, but he envisioned “a scenario where Paul plays with (Alexander) Steen and (David) Backes. That gives us quite a bit of strength on the wing, on the size with Backes. And then you have (Patrik) Berglund with (Vladimir) Sobotka and maybe (T.J.) Oshie as another line.”

The combination with Steen and Backes is appealing, but even more enticing, Stastny says, are the Blues’ multiple offensive options.

“There’s a variety of scary players on this team and whether some are natural centermen, or they’re playing wing, or vice versa, you can move different pieces and I think that’s what makes good teams really special,” he said. “They have the ability to make three or four lines, or they can go top heavy and make two really effective lines.”

After ranking seventh among Colorado forwards in average power-play ice time per game last season (2 minutes, 22 seconds), Stastny will see significant man-advantage opportunity in St. Louis. In his career, he has 47 goals and 112 assists on the specials-teams unit.

“Offensively, he probably has hockey sense-wise one of the highest hockey IQs that I’ve ever played with,” said Shattenkirk, who spent only 46 games with Stastny in Colorado in 2010-11 before his trade to the Blues. “He’s a phenomenal passer, especially down below the goal line and he can put pucks in the net.”

And playing five on five, Stastny says he will benefit from receiving up-ice passes from the likes of Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester and newcomer Carl Gunnarsson.

“That’s when I’ve been most successful,” Stastny said. “If you look at the teams I’ve played with, whether it’s world championships or Olympics, guys like that, it’s easier to read off those guys — they find the open player.”

The potential for that type of chemistry with Stastny wasn’t lost on the Blues during the search for a center.

“I think as a centerman in (Ken) Hitchcock’s systems, we like to use the middle of the ice,” Armstrong said. “You want to know that you’re going to get the puck at the appropriate time. No one likes to be set up with a suicide pass. I think you want it on your tape too. Our offense starts by good transition.”

The Blues are elated that Stastny will be establishing his new residence in St. Louis, even if it means that Shattenkirk will be looking for a new place here to call home.

“My level of excitement is pretty high,” Shattenkirk said. “I think it’s a great move for the St. Louis Blues, for our team. For me, it’s getting a friend back and somebody who I know can contribute to our team. I have a little bit better feel for him than most, but he’s someone who’s just going to make our team better and that’s all there is to it.”


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