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Blues sign Elliott to extension, Miller not returning

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues paid a hefty price when they acquired goaltender Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres in February.

But after an unsuccessful run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that ended in a disappointing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round, the Blues are moving away from Miller and again turning to a familiar face.

The team announced Monday that it resigned goalie Brian Elliott to a three-year, $7.5 million extension and will team Elliott with incumbent Jake Allen for the 2014-15 season, meaning Miller will become an unrestricted free agent in July.


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In 19 regular-season games with the Blues, Miller went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .903 save percentage, and followed it with a 2-4 record, 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage in six Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong chose to move on with the tandem of Elliott and Allen, the American Hockey League goalie of the year this past season with the Chicago Wolves.

"We took a calculated gamble of bringing in Ryan and we didn't have the success that we needed as an organization," Armstrong said in a conference call. "Certainly it was not all reflected on Ryan. It's a team game and as an organization we're all responsible, but it was additional payments necessary to Buffalo if we signed Ryan that would have basically meant moving back a full round in the draft from a first to a second round and adding a third-round pick. We just felt at this time it was better for us to go with Elliott and go with Jake Allen. They provide us with a good tandem as we move forward."

The Blues acquired Miller and forward Steve Ott from the Sabres for goalie Jaroslav Halak, right wing Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in 2015 and a conditional draft pick.

Had the Blues made the Western Conference Final or resigned Miller, the Blues also would have sent the Sabres their 2014 first-round pick, while the Blues would have received Buffalo's 2014 second- and third-round picks.

If the Blues trade Miller's rights prior to making their first pick at the 2014 NHL Draft, they will have to send their 2014 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick to the Sabres but will get back the Sabres' 2014 second- and third-round picks. If they trade his rights after the draft the Blues will send the Sabres a 2016 second-round pick to complete the trade.

Miller was considered the missing piece for the Blues, who felt like they had the necessary tools in all other areas to make a deep postseason run and perhaps win the franchise's first Stanley Cup. But after going 7-0-1 in his first eight games with the Blues, he won five of his final 17 regular-season and playoff games.

Armstrong said he did have conversations with Miller and his camp, including agent Mike Liut. While Armstrong would not discuss specifics, a source indicated that Miller's monetary asking price was too steep for the Blues to move forward.

"I had a meeting with Ryan at the end of the year," Armstrong said. "I told him I'd get in touch with him. I talked to him last week. We've gone in this direction and we're excited with the tandem we have.

"We certainly gave up quite a bit to get Ryan. ... That's why the trade was made. It didn't work out that way obviously. This job is about second-guessing. That's the industry that I've chosen to be in. You make calculated decisions. You move forward. If they work you're hailed as a genius. If they don't work you're a dummy. We took a swing and at the end of the day we didn't accomplish what we needed to."

The 29-year-old Elliott, who would have become an unrestricted free agent in July, has done nothing but win since joining the Blues prior to the 2011-12 season. His 23-10-4 record with a League-leading 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage in 2011-12 was part of a tandem with Halak that helped the pair win the William Jennings Trophy.

Elliott is 55-24-7 in three seasons with the Blues. He went 18-6-4 with a 1.96 GAA and .922 save percentage this season but was on the bench during the postseason.

"When I talked to him at the end of the season his desire was to go to an organization where he could compete as a No. 1 goaltender and now we provide him with that," Armstrong said of Elliott. "He came here as an unknown and if you look at his save percentage and his goals-against average and his win-loss record, his numbers are very good. He's been through the maturation.

"When we got to the trade deadline, we didn't make a move because we didn't believe in [Elliott]. We made a move because we thought Miller could make a difference and take us to the Stanley Cup. That hasn't happened and now we move forward as an organization. Brian Elliott has done everything asked of him."

With Elliott, whose contract kicks in at $2.5 million per season (a raise of $1.9 million from last season) and Allen, whose contract will pay him $800,000, the Blues have $3.3 million tied up in their goaltending, which should free up money to pursue necessary ingredients to help them offensively; a lack of goal scoring has been a major reason for recent early playoff eliminations.

"We're always trying to improve our team, and if we can do that you look at there's still six weeks before July 1; you never know who's going to be there," Armstrong said. "... We have to make good, strong, calculated business decisions on July 1 and if we can improve our team on that date, we will. But it's going to have to be in the feeling that it's something that it improves us for the term of the contract."

The Blues are in search of a goalie coach after Corey Hirsch was not brought back. They have filled one assistant coaching position with the addition of former Carolina Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller, who replaced Gary Agnew, who also was not retained.

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