ST. LOUIS - On the first day of free agency, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong signed forward Beau Bennett to a one-year contract.
Bennett set career highs in goals (8) and points (19) with the New Jersey Devils last season and is a five-year veteran of the League. He spent parts of four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, capturing a Stanley Cup Championship in 2015-16.
We caught up with Bennett during training camp to get to know him better. Our Q&A topics range from hockey to hidden talents to his close friendship with Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.
BLUES: What was it about St. Louis and the Blues that made signing here so attractive to you?
BENNETT: You know, I just looked at their team and the success they have had in the past. I wanted to get back into a playoff mentality. The Blues fit my style in terms of me being a responsible, puck-possessing player who can bring some skill but also is reliable. That's what I try to pride myself on and I feel like I fit the mold on that.
BLUES: Do you expect an adjustment coming to the Western Conference? You've only played in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New Jersey Devils.
BENNETT: No I don't think so. You play the Western Conference every year. That Metropolitan Division has been really tough, so we were getting top-quality competition every night. It's the NHL. All 31 teams are really good, so if you don't bring it, you're going to lose. It's not that different with the Eastern and Western Conference.
BLUES: A few minutes after you signed with the Blues as a free agent on July 1, social media lit up about how you were re-united with Robert Bortuzzo. Is he really your BFF?
BENNETT: It's funny. We didn't really talk when we were in Wilkes-Barre. He was so much older than me in that he had already been established there. Once we got called up right around the same time to Pittsburgh, it's just like we were the two new guys in the hotel. We lived together the next two years, and he's come down to California the last three summers. It's been a good relationship so far (laughing).
BLUES: And you're living at his place now, right?
BENNETT: Yeah. He's got an extra room, so I lucked out there. He knows the lay of the land, so with him, I don't have to check my maps everywhere I go.
BLUES: How would you describe your game?
BENNETT: I think just a guy who thinks the game well. I try to play the game the right way and I understand how the game is meant to be played. I'll bring out some flashes of skill but while still not being too risky. You don't want to be risking it all out there. I'm just a responsible player who can bring some skill to the table.
BLUES: You're coming off of a career high in goals and points last season with New Jersey.
BENNETT: I just played the game that I knew I was capable of playing. I'm in no way satisfied with that - I could have had way more with the chances I missed out on and the chances we were creating on a shift-by-shift basis. I think it's a good stepping stone, but I'm not thrilled with that being my career high. I want to get to a better number: 30 or 40 if possible.
BLUES: You're coming to a very talented team in St. Louis. Where do you see yourself fitting in with this group?
BENNETT: I feel like I can slot in and up the lineup wherever they need me, whatever they need me to do. I can play right or left wing - I played half and half last year. It seems like it's a tight-knit group, too, so just fitting in and being one of the guys, getting back to winning hockey games.
BLUES: What did you know about the city of St. Louis? Have you had a chance to explore much since you arrived?
BENNETT: No, because every time we've traveled here, we flew in for the night and we left right away after the game. I haven't really gotten a taste of the city yet, other than knowing the Arch was here - that's basically all I know. Great food spots though so far.
BLUES: How do you spend your time away from the rink? Concerts? Movies? What do you do?
BENNETT: I was just talking about that today. During the summer, you don't have enough hours in the day to do everything you want to do or see. But here during hockey season, you're all about rest and recovery. It's all about feeling better for the next day, and not really about what you're going to do away from the rink.
BLUES: What have you learned about one of your new teammates that has surprised you?
BENNETT: I learned (Patrik Berglund) plays piano. I play piano! Maybe we can get a duet going or something. We'll figure that out.