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Inside look at the St. Louis Blues

Addition of Schenn, talented core expected to help in quest for Stanley Cup

by Lou Korac / NHL.com

The St. Louis Blues have been able to maintain a high level of consistency competing for the Stanley Cup while at the same time making the transition from a veteran-laden team that reached the Western Conference Final in 2016 to one infused with youth moving toward the future.

In 2017-18, the Blues will continue their long-term plan of building from within by developing young players.

"I think we believe we're going in a different direction and a direction we're excited about, but we don't want to lose sight," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Our goal is always to win and win a championship. I thought we did take a step forward [last season]."

The Blues acquired center Brayden Schenn in a trade from the Philadelphia Flyers on June 23 for center Jori Lehtera, a first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in 2018.

Schenn, 26, has three seasons remaining on the four-year contract he signed with the Flyers on July 25, 2016. He had 55 points (25 goals, 30 assists) in 79 games last season and tied for the League lead in power-play goals (17) with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.

On July 1, the Blues signed fourth-line right wing Chris Thorburn, 34, to a two-year contact, forward Beau Bennett, 25, to a one-year contract; and forward Oskar Sundqvist, 23, to a one-year contract after acquiring the restricted free agent along with the No. 31 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 23 for right wing Ryan Reaves and a 2017 second-round pick (No. 51).

St. Louis signed defenseman Nate Prosser, 31, to a two-year deal on Aug. 3.

The Blues made a long-term commitment to restricted free agent defenseman Colton Parayko, 24, on July 20, signing him to a five-year, $27.5 million contract ($5.5 million average annual value). Parayko will be a primary part of their core with forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz, each 25; forward Robby Fabbri, 21, coming off a torn ACL sustained Feb. 4; defensemen Alex Pietrangelo, 27, and Joel Edmundson, 24; and goaltender Jake Allen, 27, whose four-year, extension begins this season.

Tarasenko led the Blues in scoring last season with 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) and has scored 37 or more goals in three straight seasons.

There will be plenty of veteran leadership, including center Paul Stastny, 31, forward Alexander Steen, 33, and center Patrik Berglund, 29. Steen finished last season playing with a broken foot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Berglund is expected to be out until December after dislocating his left shoulder in the offseason.

The Blues also signed forward Vladimir Sobotka, 30, who played for the Blues from 2010-14 before spending the past three seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, to a three-year deal on April 6.

"That's internal competition," Armstrong said, "and I think that's what makes an organization the strongest … and that's what we're trying to regain here."

Center Ivan Barbashev, 21, who had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 30 games last season, and forward Zach Sanford, 22, who had eight points (four goals, four assists) in 39 games for the Blues and Washington Capitals, also are expected to contribute.

"I see a team that has Barbashev, a Sanford, a Fabbri in their lineup," Armstrong said. "We're excited about where we are going forward and really excited about some of these young players that we have coming."

Forward David Perron was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, forward Nail Yakupov signed a one-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 4, and left wing Scottie Upshall remains an unrestricted free agent.

The Blues went 22-8-2 under coach Mike Yeo after he replaced Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1 and advanced to the Western Conference Second Round (a six-game loss to the Nashville Predators). Yeo will begin his first full season as St. Louis coach with five new assistants. Craig Berube was promoted to associate coach after coaching Chicago of the American Hockey League last season, and David Alexander will be the goaltending coach, replacing Martin Brodeur, who returned to his full-time role as assistant GM.

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