Jamie Langenbrunner had six goals for the St. Louis Blues last season, but as general manager Doug Armstrong said Tuesday, winning teams need more than just goal scorers.
Right Wing - STL
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 24
SOG: 127 | +/-: 7
Langenbrunner's experience and locker-room presence were major reasons the Blues have re-signed the 36-year-old right wing to a one-year contract. Financial terms of the deal were not released.
"Bringing Jamie back was something we looked to do since the season ended," Armstrong said. "His work ethic and his professionalism and his ability to help a group trying to push a team to a new level was instrumental and we think he'll be a big piece of the puzzle going forward."
Langenbrunner was signed by Armstrong last summer to add veteran leadership to one of the League's younger teams. The result was one of the best seasons in Blues history as they won the Central Division for the first time since 1999-2000 and won a playoff series for the first time since 2002.
"I enjoyed being in St. Louis," Langenbrunner said. "It was always my first choice. I wasn't in a big hurry or anything like that, just making sure that it made sense for both [sides]."
Langenbrunner had 24 points and a plus-7 rating in 70 regular-season games and one goal in 11 playoff games. In 1,105 games with the Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils and Blues, he has 662 points and a pair of Stanley Cups (1999 Stars; 2003 Devils).
At this point in his career, his usefulness comes more away from the ice -- especially his relationship with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who replaced Davis Payne in November. Langenbrunner was part of the Dallas Stars team that Hitchcock guided to the '99 Cup, and was able to serve as a buffer between the veteran coach and the locker room.
"He plays a good role for Ken in getting the message to not only the leadership group, but the rest of the players," Armstrong said. "And he's a winner. He's won two Stanley Cups. He captained Team USA to the Olympics in 2010. Having those character people in your organization is strong as we continue to develop and grow."
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Armstrong said Langenbrunner wasn't brought to St. Louis to be a top-six forward, but said he believes Langenbrunner has more to offer on the ice. Langenbrunner agrees with him and expects more of himself this season.
"I don't think they sign a lot of guys to talk in the locker room very often, so I know I have to perform and play," he said. "I think a lot of good things were accomplished last year as a team, but we've got a ways to go and we realize that … continue to improve, guys having better seasons, and I'm in included in that mix."
Langenbrunner's return was part of the reason the Blues traded forward B.J. Crombeen to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. In return the Blues receive a pair of 2013 fourth-round draft picks.
Crombeen was fifth on the team with 71 penalty minutes, but Armstrong said Langenbrunner's return, combined with the development of Ryan Reeves, gave the Blues a surplus of bottom-six forwards.
"The emergence of Ryan Reeves played a big part in this, and we think Anthony Peluso is a player who can fill some of those responsibilities B.J. filled over time," Armstrong said.
Crombeen, who turned 27 on Tuesday, said he was disappointed, but thankful for the opportunity he got in St. Louis.
"Obviously you know it's part of the business and it's something that can happen any day at any time," he said. "You're never really expecting that call, but you know it can always come. It was something that kind of came up quick and went together pretty quick. It was mixed emotions when you hear it. Obviously St. Louis has been great to me. I enjoyed all my time there from every level, but at the same time, it's a new opportunity and a fresh start and it's something that I'm really looking forward to."
Armstrong said he's happy where his forward group is now, but that doesn't mean he's done tinkering with his roster. Right wing T.J. Oshie has an arbitration hearing scheduled for July 20, although the hope is both sides settle on a contract before then.
"We've got our arbitration date," he said. "Both sides are open to talk but both sides are preparing for arbitration if we have to get to it."
There also was a report in Tuesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Blues could be interested in Stars captain Brenden Morrow. Armstrong and Hitchcock know Morrow well from their time in Dallas. Armstrong worked in the Stars' front office when Morrow was drafted and was the GM who named Morrow captain in 2006. Hitchcock was Morrow's coach in the forward's first three NHL seasons.
Armstrong also could be in the market to upgrade his defense, saying the trade route likely would be the direction he would look.
"I think that the free-agent market may have dwindled to the point where we'll focus on seeing if there's availability via trade," he said. "We're comfortable with the six guys we have and we have depth with NHL experience. But if there's still an area that if we can improve our defense, we'll look at doing it. If it doesn't happen in the next week or two or even a month, I'm comfortable with that. I like what we have."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK