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Blues alter core group by trading Oshie for Brouwer

by Louie Korac /

ST. LOUIS -- After a third straight elimination in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the St. Louis Blues understood that despite multiple winning regular seasons, change was on the horizon.

One came Thursday when they traded forward T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals for forward Troy Brouwer, goalie prospect Pheonix Copley, and a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

"Hockey trades are hard to make in this League. You don't see many of them," general manager Doug Armstrong said Thursday. "This is a team that we have some younger players (Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ty Rattie and Robby Fabbri) that I would like to see take a bigger role moving forward. I think that opens up a little bit of space for that. It brings in a different style of player.

"Obviously we haven't had the success that we've wanted to have, and this isn't a reflection of one player, but you have to make adjustments."

The Blues have the most points in the NHL the past four seasons (389) but have not been successful in the playoffs, winning one series in that time. The core group that included Oshie, David Backes, Alexander Steen, Barret Jackman and Patrik Berglund were put on notice that the landscape was about to get a makeover.

The Blues were rumored to be involved in several trade conversations since the season ended, and Oshie's name had been in the mill for weeks, but until Thursday it had been difficult for the Blues to make an apples-for-apples-type of trade.

Oshie, who played seven seasons for St. Louis after he was the 24th pick in the 2005 draft, has two years remaining on his contract, making him the most marketable player the Blues could offer in a trade.

"I thought something would possibly happen at the draft (last weekend)," Oshie said. "After a couple of days, I just figured that I'd be staying in St. Louis. I got a call from Armstrong today, and my initial reaction was a little bit of shock, even though that I knew it was a possibility. Then after a couple of minutes, I started getting excited to go onto the next chapter of my career.

"... I did feel with the players in that locker room that we were falling short, but if we went back with the same team, that we would have hopefully learned from some of our mistakes. But after I saw [coach Ken Hitchcock] was coming back, I figured there would be at least one or two moves that [Armstrong] would want to make."

That included bringing in 29-year-old Brouwer, a sandpaper-type player the Blues felt was missing from their locker room. Armstrong said they have players of Oshie's caliber but not enough who play like Brouwer.

"T.J.'s a heck of a hockey player and was a very good player here, but I really think with his size (5-foot-11, 189 pounds) and his style of play, we had players that played like that same style," Armstrong said. "Brouwer (6-foot-3, 213) gives us a little bit of a different look. I think in today's game, you can see the teams that can come with a different look are hard to play against."

Brouwer won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.

"I'm an honest player," he said. "I'm a guy that works hard. I've got some skill to me. I can make some plays, been able to score some goals, but I'm a big body, big power forward. I like to play in front of the net, in the corners, play a hard-nosed game, I'll fight when I need to.

"I like to feel like I'm a pretty well-rounded player with the ability to score 20-25, hopefully 30 goals, but also still being able to finish my checks and be a very reliable guy for the Blues."

Copley, 23, was 17-4-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 26 games with Hershey of the American Hockey League last season.

The Blues signed center Jori Lehtera to a three-year contract worth $14.1 million on Wednesday, restricted free agent defenseman Robert Bortuzzo for two years and $2.1 million on Thursday, and adding defenseman/forward Peter Harrold and forward Kyle Brodziak for one year each Friday. Leading scorer Tarasenko is a restricted free agent.

Armstrong said the Blues are set for what they consider to be their top three forward lines but will continue to search for depth.

"We're still active and maybe looking to add another piece or two, but they're not at the higher level," Armstrong said. "It would just be filling out our roster. ... This certainly solidifies our group of nine forwards."

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