It was an interesting reunion for the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, via the St. Louis Dispatch:
Seeking to add more veteran experience to a young team, the Blues have signed free-agent forwards Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to one-year contracts. Langenbrunner and Arnott will each make $2.5 million in 2011-12, with potential bonuses that could increase the value of their contracts to $2.8 million individually.
Interesting in the sense that Blues GM Doug Armstrong, then the GM of the Stars, traded Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk for Arnott and Randy McKay back in 2002, in what Mike Heika calls "one of the worst trades in Stars history." If not worst, then most surreal, according to Bob Sturm of the Stars:
There may not be a trade in the history of the Stars that generates more opinion and debate than that one. There were reports of very hurt feelings from Langenbrunner after he had been assured he was not going to be dealt, and there was disbelief from fans that 2/3rds of the line that was so dynamic during the 1999 playoffs (Dave Reid!) was being sent away for the center who dominated the Stars in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals.
But this isn't the first time Arnott and Langenbrunner have played together, making this reunion all the more odd: They were linemates during that implosion of the New Jersey Devils early last season, with Langenbrunner producing a paltry four goals in 31 games before being shipped to the Stars.
Yet for all the peculiarities and coincidences, this is a great move by the Blues.
There was a time when the Blues were a collection of young players augmented by a couple of old guys like Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk. Last season, there was a decided lack of old guys — Andy MacDonald and Eric Brewer were two of the only players born before 1980 — and players that have Stanley Cup rings. It was a youth movement, un-chaperoned, and the result was a season that ended without a playoff berth.
Arnott is 36. Langenbrunner is 35. The former has a Cup ring, and scored the overtime game-winning goal to earn it. The latter has two Cup rings. Combine them with veteran Scott Nichol, 37, whom the team signed over the weekend, and the Blues have some experienced players with some grit.
Remember how well Scott Mellanby played late in his career for the Blues? Arnott has the same sort of character. At reported price of just under $3 mlllion for 2011-12, he should be an excellent addition.
Patrik Berglund (and others) will learn a lot from having Arnott as a teammate. His addition should allow the Blues to assemble three strong scoring lines and two balanced power-play units.
The moves also signal that the Blues aren't simply going to meander into the regular season without significant additions to their lineup. It's something that star David Backes frankly was worried about after July 1, via the Dispatch:
"You sat there after July 1 going, 'Well the Blues are kind of sitting on their hands ... maybe it's the ownership thing, maybe we're just going to go with the team we had last year, and if we stay healthy, we're still going to be a force to be reckon with,'" he said. "But now there are three more pieces to the puzzle.
"And you have to add the veteran defenseman, Kent Huskins, too, he's won a Stanley Cup, and a guy that's going to bring a lot of familiarity with the playoffs. And again, keep us calm, keep us consistent over the year and make sure we're playing in April, May and June."
The Blues' ownership situation, by the way, could be nearing a resolution.
The Blues lineup, with or without David Perron next season, is deeper than it was last season. (But hopefully he does return.) The veterans on the team will add some savvy and some stability to a team that seemed to lack both at times last season.
It's said that winning is contagious. Perhaps the will to win and maturity can be, too.