In the days and weeks that led up to the July 1 free agency extravaganza, you could almost feel the angst among loyal St. Louisans building up over what was surely going to be a disappointing offseason.
After superstar center John Tavares passed on St. Louis even being a possible destination in favor of the likes of his now-former club, the New York Islanders, or exotic locales like his eventual destination Toronto, Tampa Bay, Dallas, San Jose, and Boston, fans in the Gateway City felt passed over once again.
After all, baseball’s superslugger Giancarlo Stanton blocked a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals in the offseason because the lights wouldn’t shine as brightly on him as they would in New York City. Even still, Stanton found it difficult to settle into New York, but he seems to be getting comfy in the Bronx lately.
But in between then and the prior offseason, St. Louisans were feeling a little underappreciated. Had the Gateway City’s time as a place where players might actually choose to play in come and gone? What was wrong with the city? Was it the failed MLS bid? Was it the after-effects of Ferguson?
And what was so good about the cities Tavares was looking at? New York has more glitz and glamor than you can shake a hockey stick at. Toronto and Boston are big markets with Original Six roots. Tampa and Dallas are favorites of any player who wants to make money because of the lack of state income taxes. San Jose isn’t far from warm, sandy beaches.
St. Louis has none of those things.
So July 1 comes around. Blues fans, as they’ve been trained to do over the years, brace for the worst. And in the first few hours, they’re rewarded with:
And that’s it. Blues GM Doug Armstrong calls a wrap-up press conference on the three signings and we move on with our lives and Blues fans on social media lament that Armstrong is, once again, falling short of his job requirements. Or something.
Admittedly, it’s kind of difficult to find a lot of documented proof of this because I’m sure a lot of those type of comments were wiped away when the Blues acquired Ryan O’Reilly AND managed to get Buffalo to take the scourges that were Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Sobotka.
Angst quickly turned into a celebration, and our Doug Armstrong voodoo dolls somehow went missing.
In the time that has passed, Tyler Bozak published a great article on The Player’s Tribune talking about his time in Toronto. But here’s the really good part:
The very first call I got this off-season was from Doug Armstrong, the St. Louis Blues GM.
He told me about the city, the team and his plan. I spoke with some other teams and there were a few good offers, but St. Louis was a perfect fit.
Mostly because I don’t want to block another Vladimir Tarasenko shot ever again.
I’m kidding. (I’m not kidding.) I know how good the Blues are. They’ve been so hard to play against for years. They’ve got great talent, and even though I was fortunate enough to accomplish some great things in Toronto, I never got the one thing I’ve always really wanted.
The Stanley Cup.
I want to win a Cup. So damn bad.
That’s why I signed in St. Louis. There’s your headline. Print it.
Ok, we printed it Tyler.
He came to St. Louis to win a Cup. There’s one player that actually wanted to be in St. Louis.
David Perron is another. This is a guy that was told to go away not once, but twice. Here’s a guy that gets plucked in the expansion draft and nearly becomes a point-per-game guy during the regular season for Vegas (albeit with a familiar disappearing act in the playoffs). His production suggests a big contract right?
Nope. He’s making right at where he was before Vegas took him away from St. Louis. He wanted to sign a contract in St. Louis. He likes it here. Either that or he’s a masochist, but I’m guessing it’s the former.
There’s two. How about #3?
O’Reilly seemed awfully happy about coming to St. Louis when he spoke to Fox Sports Midwest about it.
ICYMI — Ryan O’Reilly has no regrets from his time with the #Sabres. Now he’s ready to lead the @StLouisBlues back to the playoffs: “I feel like I have a spark in me now.” #stlblues pic.twitter.com/8rLiSbDaCe
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) July 3, 2018
Now, a lot of his happiness may have to do with the fact he’s escaping a sinking ship in Buffalo (sorry Rasmus Dahlin fans, it’s gonna be a while for the Sabres), but in those comments, he seems really enthused about being a part of the St. Louis Blues lineup. He wants to be a Blue.
And last but certainly not least is the final big free agency signing (that hopefully will be finalized any day now): Pat Maroon.
The Oakville High School graduate is not far removed from a 30+ goal scoring season in Edmonton and still put up a respectable 43 points in 74 games last season split between Edmonton and New Jersey.
So it seems the St. Louis native wants to come home.
Here is what i heard, verbatim: Pat Maroon had back surgery recently. Once he gets cleared he will most likely sign with the Blues to a 1 year deal. Him and Armstrong have a verbal agreement that if he signs here he will get a 4 year extension in January. #stlblues
— Jeff Ponder (@jponder94) July 7, 2018
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 9, 2018
Here’s what I got: told that Patrick Maroon to #stlblues has been finalized, could be announced Monday & expected to be for one-year, $1.7 million & that Blues and Maroon will entertain a contract extension when first allowed in January. Looks like Oakville native is coming home.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) July 9, 2018
Yes? I think yes…
Think this was sorted out after your deadline, with Maroon going to STL https://t.co/KHkjpUnUub
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 10, 2018
This is so confusing.
So…it’s a done deal? Or are we still playing “will he or won’t he?” https://t.co/6OYugMlIB9
— Good Ol’ Hockey Podcast (@GoodOlHockey) July 10, 2018
If the reports are true, it seems like Maroon will sign a one year, $1.7 million contract with the Blues on something of a “prove it” deal, with a possible extension looming in January.
Edit: Yes, they’re true!
Can confirm multiple recent reports that Pat Maroon will be signing a 1 year, $1.75 million dollar deal with #stlblues.
— Joey Palazzola (@Palazzola_RTN) July 10, 2018
It is finally official. Maroon has signed a one-year, $1.7 million with the Blues
— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) July 10, 2018
$1.7 million, even for a guy who is coming off back surgery, still seems awfully cheap for a power forward who can score goals. But it’s the kind of discount you often see when a guy is returning home after a long career away from it, a discount given when you want to play in the same city your kid lives in, and a discount given to a team serious about winning.
It doesn’t matter where you are or where you live, but you cannot deny that St. Louis became a rather nice place to be for NHL players serious about their craft.
Kinda nice, isn’t it?