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Binnington eager for Blues to begin repeat bid

Goalie says it won't be easy to win Stanley Cup again in 'cutthroat league'

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Jordan Binnington said he feels the St. Louis Blues have the talent and chemistry to make another strong run at winning the Stanley Cup but knows it won't be easy.

"The NHL is a cutthroat league, and you want to be prepared to play your best right from the start," the Blues goalie told at BioSteel Camp on Tuesday. "So that's what I'm looking to do.

"We've got a lot of returning guys, and we have a close group. (Our) group chat pops up every now and then, and I think everyone's excited to get back and see each other, especially after such a memorable year. I look forward to see what else we can accomplish."

The Blues are setting out to become the second back-to-back Cup champions since 1998. The Pittsburgh Penguins (2016, 2017) are the only team to accomplish the feat in the past 21 years.

Binnington said he knows neither he nor the Blues are going to take opponents by surprise like they did last season.

Video: Jordan Binnington checks in at No. 8 on the list

St. Louis was in last place in the NHL on Jan. 3. Binnington made his first NHL start Jan. 7 and helped the Blues rebound to win the Stanley Cup five months later, the first championship in their 51-season history.

With NHL training camps set to open in two weeks, the Blues will have targets on their chests as the defending champions. Binnington said he is ready for the challenge.

"[The offseason] turned around pretty quickly," the 26-year-old said. "Hopefully as an athlete and, hopefully, as a veteran-mindset player, you better be ready."

The Central Division improved during the offseason. Among the notable additions were forwards Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry with the Dallas Stars, forward Matt Duchene with the Nashville Predators, forward Nazem Kadri with the Colorado Avalanche, and goalie Robin Lehner with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"You can't worry about that; you have to focus on looking after what you can control," he said. "Teams are going to get better. It's the best league in the world, so every game is a competitive game.

"Everyone has to stay on top of themselves and come together as a team as the year goes on and keep building. I think that's important to success."

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Binnington

At least he won't have to worry about his immediate financial or professional future after agreeing to a two-year, $8.8 million contract July 13.

"I've had a few one-year deals in a row, so it was nice to get a two-year deal done where you get a bit of comfort and stability -- I would say that's a key word there," he said. "It makes you feel good. All you have to worry about is playing and performing and no stress about trying to grab the next contract. Just trying to do your best and giving your team its best chance to win every day."

Binnington played last season on a one-year, two-way contract he signed July 6, 2018, and moved up from fourth on the Blues' depth chart. A finalist for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, he was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and five shutouts in 32 regular-season games (30 starts).

He followed that up by setting the rookie record for wins by a goalie in a single Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 16-10 with a 2.46 GAA, a .914 save percentage and one shutout in 26 games.

One player who won't be part of the Blues' attempt to repeat is forward Pat Maroon. The St. Louis native, who scored in the second overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Stars, signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

"It's unfortunate but it's a business," Binnington said. "We understand that. That's why the players have to look out for themselves. It's not always going to go your way, so it's how you handle it.

"He was a key part of our team, a key part of our championship, and I wish him nothing but the best. We will have those shared memories forever."

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