ST. LOUIS - Pat Maroon was having dinner with his family at Charlie Gitto's Italian Restaurant on Monday night, mulling over his future and evaluating contract offers from several NHL teams, when it finally hit him.
Why would I ever leave here?
Maroon, who grew up in Oakville and once played for the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League, picked up his phone and told his agent he wanted to be a Blue.
"I couldn't even eat," Maroon said. "I was so nervous and stressed out."
By Tuesday afternoon, the deal - a one-year contract worth $1.75 million - was done. The nerves and stress were replaced by elation and excitement.
"I've dreamed of putting that jersey on," Maroon said. "This is a chance for me to come in on a good team, a team that's going to do some really good things this year… I'm so happy to be coming home."
Growing up, Maroon would attend Blues games in the Mezzanine Level with his dad, who had two season tickets. Maroon and his brother, Phil, would alternate going to games. Sometimes, if they were lucky, both Pat and Phil would get to go - one would have to sit on dad's lap.
Maroon has come a long way since his days of cheering on the Blues from the stands and playing hockey for the Bandits in Chesterfield. Now a seven-year NHL veteran, Maroon set a career high with 43 points last season, splitting time between the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils. The year before that, he set a career high in goals (27) while spending time alongside Connor McDavid on the Oilers' top line.
While he's certainly capable of contributing offensively, a physical, no-nonsense sandpaper style seems to suit him best.
"I think I bring a big, physical presence that the Blues have been missing the last couple years. I think I bring that net-front presence," Maroon said. "I can be really good on the power play, I can be really good in front of the net, soft hands in front of the net. I can bring that physical presence down low, protect pucks and stick up for my teammates. Ryan Reaves did a good job of that back in the day, and I feel like Chris Thorburn is doing a good job of that now, but I feel like I can bring another element."
Video: Armstrong comments on signing Pat Maroon
"He's got very good hands for a player of that size and stature," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong told stlouisblues.com. "(This is) a one-year opportunity for him to come back, hopefully play with some really good centermen and get back to that 27-goal performance he had in Edmonton, or close to it. We think he can help our team. I talked to some of our players about him, competing against him, and they spoke very highly about how hard he was to play against, how difficult he was to move in those high traffic areas. This is just another player we add to our group that makes us a little better than we were yesterday."
Maroon said the decision to sign with the Blues was an easy one. Stressful, sure - making big decisions about your future is always stressful - but easy in the sense that signing with the Blues would fulfill a lifelong dream. Plus, the additions the Blues have made this summer - like acquiring Ryan O'Reilly and signing David Perron and Tyler Bozak - give Maroon hope that the Blues will be a serious contender next April.
But perhaps the biggest factor in signing with St. Louis was that Maroon would be closer to his nine-year-old son Anthony, who he feels he doesn't get to see enough during hockey season. Now that will change - Maroon will get to see Anthony play basketball, soccer or hockey in person rather than by using the FaceTime app on his phone.
"When I told (Anthony) on the phone (that I was staying home)... we both started tearing up a bit because it's a special thing," Maroon said. "I've been away from him for nine years (playing hockey)... it takes a toll on you sometimes as a dad. It's hard being away from your son like that. I'll have a full year under my belt with my son, and I haven't had that - only three months at a time (in the offseason). For him, watching his dad play for the St. Louis Blues, seeing him in warmups before every game, it's going to be a really cool year, a really fun year."
Maroon will wear No. 7 when training camp begins in September. Where he will fit in a stacked lineup is anyone's guess right now, but he is confident he can play anywhere - from the top line to the fourth line if the club needs someone to grind it out, wreak havoc and create some energy.
"For me, I've got to come in here and earn a spot. There are no guaranteed spots on this team," Maroon said. "I like doing that, I like when my back is against the wall... 'Army' is sending a statement. This is the team, now you have it. We have to go out there and do it now."