It came quicker than most expected, but the Blues have made a decision in goal for next season as they have extended Brian Elliott for three seasons.
Elliott will be teaming up with Jake Allen next season to form the Blues’ tandem. The club will not be signing Ryan Miller, opting to go a different direction in the upcoming campaign.
The Blues’ deal with Elliott is worth $7.5 million over the three seasons, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. The average annual value on Elliott’s deal will be $2.5 million. It was believed that Miller would have commanded more than double that to remain in St. Louis.
The Blues brought in Miller at last season’s trade deadline in an attempt to improve the team. General Manager Doug Armstrong expected his club, with Miller a part of it, to make a deep playoff run. But they were thrown from the postseason after just six games. Miller had a 12-12-1 record with the Blues, including a 2-4 postseason record.
“At the deadline, we took a calculated gamble bringing in Ryan Miller and we didn’t have the success we needed as an organization,” said Armstrong.
At the time of the Miller trade, Armstrong had interest in re-signing the veteran goalie. The general manager sat down with Miller following the season and contacted him again last week. Armstrong wouldn’t talk specifics, but after that call, the club made it clear they were moving in a different direction.
It is believed Miller was commanding too much money from the Blues, but one thing Armstrong admitted to was his wariness to give up another first-round draft pick to Buffalo, which he would have been required to do had he re-signed Miller.
With the extending of Elliott, the Blues have answered perhaps the biggest question of the offseason. Their decision to rely on him and Allen next season saves the club a substantial amount of money, but also provides for more of an unknown factor between the pipes.
“I would say that there is a little larger unknown in our goaltending than there has been in the past few seasons,” Armstrong admitted.
But the unknown isn’t that concerning for Armstrong and the Blues with Elliott locked up. Since joining the Blues as a free agent in 2011, the 29-year old goalie has posted a 55-24-7 record, with a league-leading 16 shutouts. His .680 win percentage gave the Blues all the confidence they needed to offer him a contract.
“He got here as an unknown,” Armstrong said. “If you look at his goals against average and his win-loss record, that’s our industry. We are in the win-loss industry and his numbers are very good. He is right in the guts of his career. He has done everything that has been asked of him. His numbers are reflective of the player we have trust in.”
Armstrong isn’t the only member of the Blues’ organization with high regards for the goalie.
“His teammates enjoy working with him because he is an ultimate competitor and he comes ready to play,” said Armstrong.
It seems to be the same theme with Elliott every year, as he proves himself, but can never seem to be rewarded with solidification in a starting role. Elliott was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. His demands weren’t money or term-related. He just wanted the opportunity to compete.
“I talked to him at the end of the season and his desire was to go to an organization where he could compete as a No. 1 goaltender,” said Armstrong. “Right now, we provide him with that.”
Elliott entered the offseason knowing what he could command from teams in a new contract, but his desire was always to stay in St. Louis as long as he had the opportunity to earn a starting role. With Miller present, he wouldn’t have had such an opportunity. Now, he could become the team’s go-to-guy in net.
“I think I’ve made a reputation as a hard-working guy who can come in and win big games and do a lot for a team. It’s about trying to make that next step and try to be a No. 1.”
As the Blues have made abundantly clear, Elliott will be competing with Allen for starts, but Elliott appears to have the upper-hand in that competition due to his familiarity with the team.
“I would say that there is a comfort level now with the players and the head coach with Brian, only because they know him, he has been here a long time, and he has played in big games for them,” Armstrong said. “I think one thing Brian has working in his favor right now is familiarity. He wanted the chance to compete and he has that now.”
And Elliott likes the idea of Allen being his competition.
“He’s a great guy,” Elliott said of Allen. “He’s an up-and-comer, played great while he was up here so definitely earned an opportunity. Whoever is partnered up with him, it will be good, give him a chance to break into the league.”
Allen has undoubtedly earned his spot on the Blues’ roster. The reigning AHL goaltender of the year has been in the Blues’ system since 2008 when he was drafted by the club. The club has confidence in his half of the tandem.
“We are bringing in Jake Allen, American Hockey League goaltender of the year and his numbers are outstanding,” said Armstrong. “We had the chance to watch him and he’s an NHL goaltender now. He has to come in and grab the ball and run with it. It is going to be really good competition and our organization has the best success when there is competition.”
At the start of the season, the Blues will have just $3.3 million wrapped up in a goaltending tandem that they are confident will lead to a winning recipe.