(HockeySTL) – A Tuesday evening trade between the Blues and Penguins kicked off the action for the Blues in the post-All-Star break days. The two clubs exchanged fourth-line players, Maxim Lapierre being shipped to Pittsburgh while Marcel Goc was received by St. Louis.
The trade had been in the works for a few weeks. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford are frequently in contact with each other and the idea of a Lapierre-for-Goc swap came up prior to the break.
“It’s something that talked about prior to the break,” said Armstrong. “It was one that kind of just came up and we re-addressed it after the break. We talked a few days ago and it came together fairly quickly.”
Lapierre, 29, had been with the Blues for the past two seasons after signing a two-year, $2.2 million contract with the team in 2013. During his time with the club, Lapierre consistently centered forwards Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves. The trio became as close as any group of players off the ice.
“It’s tough,” said Reaves. “I played with him for two years. We had good chemistry together but management saw that a change needed to be made. I think (Goc) is a little better defensively than ‘Lappy’. We had three reckless players; sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn’t.”
Added Ott: “It’s always surprising. It doesn’t matter if there are rumors or not rumors. Anytime you lose a guy that’s like a brother, especially a guy like Lapierre, who worked extremely hard for this team, it’s hard.”
Ott said he talked to Lapierre Tuesday night after the new broke.
“He was pretty shocked,” said Ott. “As a player you have to kind of move on quickly in this league. It’s the uncertainty that we live with on a day-to-day basis.”
As a member of the Blues, Lapierre posted 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) in 116 games. Three weeks ago, the fourth-line forward was a healthy scratch after a poor performance. There had been much talk about the need for him to elevate his game. And while the trio was accustomed to a certain hard-to-play-against style, it led to complications on the ice with three players of the same composition.
“I think it adds stability to that line,” said Armstrong. “Sometimes in the games we saw we were giving up odd-man rushes and all three of the players, Ott, Lapierre and Reaves, like to get in on the forecheck. This is going to give us a little more reliability in that center position. We were looking for a little less recklessness in that position and more stability.”
Lapierre had posted two goals, nine points in 45 games this season, while Goc had two goals, six points in 43 games with the Penguins. The biggest difference between Lapierre and Goc are the various roles the two players play.
“I think, when you look at the two players they are similar in a lot of ways,” said Armstrong. “Marcel is a very competent, established player who is very responsible. I think it is going to allow our forecheck to be a little more intense off of the wings.”
Goc, 31, who has played 55 games with the Penguins over the past two seasons, hadn’t arrived in St. Louis by the time the Blues hit the ice for their Wednesday practice. He is expected to arrive in St. Louis Wednesday evening and play against Nashville on Thursday.
“I would say 90 percent of the stuff is the same (as in Pittsburgh),” said head coach Ken Hitchcock. “That’s good because he’s not having to make huge adjustments. It’s more getting up to speed emotionally. Some of it is on the player coming in and the rest is on us to get him (ready).”
Ott, who was traded to the Blues at the trade deadline last season, said he expects Goc to have a smooth transition in the Blues’ locker room and on the ice.
“He’ll notice right away how close a group we are,” Ott said. “The guys made me feel welcome from the very get-go. There is no better feeling when you come into a team and it’s a little awkward and your teammates grab you and make you feel a part of it right away.”
Both Hitchcock and Armstrong have done their respective homework on Goc, who isn’t the most well-known player in the NHL. The word responsible is perhaps the most-used description when discussing the Blues’ newest addition.
“He’s a smart positional player who manages the ice well,” said Hitchcock. “He reads off of other people really well and he’s a methodical player. It’s a different type of player than ‘Lappy’ was. ‘Lappy’ was a hunter and very good at it. He was a strong forechecking player and very good at it. Goc manages the ice in a different way.”
Goc, who has spent time with four other NHL teams (San Jose, Florida, Nashville, Pittsburgh) during his 12-year career, has experience playing in bigger roles than a fourth-line center normally would earn.
“That’s one thing we do like about him,” said Armstrong. “He can move up if necessary and give us third-line minutes. He’s a player who I have respected. He’s a guy that will bring it, no matter what.”
The trade seems minute, but has the possibility to further the success of both teams.
“This is a small trade that can help both teams,” said Hitchcock.