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Blues give goalie Elliott two-year extension

by Louie Korac
ST. LOUIS -- By locking up Brian Elliott for two more years, St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes he has the best -- if not one of the best -- goalie tandems in the NHL.

Elliott's resurrection continued Wednesday, when the Blues announced they signed the All-Star goaltender to a two-year contract extension worth $3.6 million.

It's quite a story for a guy who entered last summer without a job, searching for work and now getting job security in mid-season.

Brian Elliott
Goalie - STL
RECORD: 15-5-1
GAA: 1.68 | SVP: 0.937
"I wasn't really expecting it because I haven't been approached like that before ... it's always been in the off-season," Elliott said. "I was happy that they wanted me to stay. Whenever you get that, you know that they're impressed with you and your work ethic. I was happy that they did and we came to an agreement that we both felt was a good deal."

Elliott, who is 15-5-1 with a 1.68 goals-against average (second in the NHL), .937 save percentage and five shutouts, signed a one-year, two-way contract on July 1 worth $600,000. He will make $1.7 million next season and $1.9 million in 2013-14, with a $1.8 million cap hit.

With Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in the fold for at least the next two seasons, the Blues feel good about what they have on their team but also at the AHL level with Ben Bishop and Jake Allen.

"We're excited to have the tandem of Jaro and Brian together for the next two seasons," Armstrong said. "Goaltending's such a big part of our game. To know now that we have two goalies that we think are entering the prime of their careers together, to have that partnership together is very important for us.

"For Brian especially, the situation he was in last summer wondering where he was going to play and finding a good home here in St. Louis and doing his job on the ice, I think it's a great story. Now he can settle in and take his career to the next level with our group."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has a problem on his hands -- a good problem. When he has to go game by game to pick a goalie, it's nice to know there are two reliable guys to choose from.

"He's the perfect example of perseverance, but he's a great model for stay with it," Hitchcock said. "... I think the biggest thing Brian did was look in the mirror. It wasn't his work ethic, it wasn't his determination, it wasn't his conditioning. There were some things that had to change in his game. He had to just become more compact in his game and he's done that, he's done it beautifully. He's resurrected a career based on being able to look in the mirror and not feel sorry for himself, and make adjustments."

Elliott did not make the final roster until after the final preseason game on Oct. 1. He was battling with Bishop to be the backup to Halak.

But the 6-foot-3, 204-pound Elliott, who is in his fifth NHL season, has surpassed all expectations. He's allowed the fewest goals (36) and suffered the fewest losses among goalies with 20 starts or more. He's got a 9-1-1 mark at home.

"I'm not only excited for Brian, but I'm also excited about Jaro knowing he's going to have a healthy partner knowing that they can tandem up and try and keep us in the top tandem of the goaltending in the NHL for the next two plus years," Armstrong said.

With the season he's having and with impending unrestricted free agency looming this summer, the 26-year-old Elliott chose to remain in St. Louis knowing it will be a tandem and not a chance to go somewhere else and try to become a clear-cut No. 1.

"Things can go the other way, too," Elliott said. "You're basically playing the odds.

"You can say what if you get injured, or the other way, what if you lead the team to a couple playoff wins, you can be even more attractive. But I've learned from experience that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I really like it here and I like the guys and I think it sets up well for my career. After this contract is done, I'll still be probably one of the younger goalies in the League, so it just builds on to the rest of my career."

A native of Newmarket, Ontario, Elliott is 76-58-17 in his career with the Blues, Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche.
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