ST. LOUIS — Doug Armstrong knows that you don’t look good when deals don’t work out. He understands this.
The Blues’ general manager acknowledged that Monday morning during a conference call with reporters to discuss the team’s re-signing of goalie Brian Elliott to a three-year deal.
The move, which comes a few weeks after Armstrong stated that heralded prospect Jake Allen will be one of the team’s goalies next season, means that the Blues are officially moving on from Ryan Miller, the veteran goaltender they acquired at the trade deadline with hopes of making a run at that ever-elusive Stanley Cup.
"We gave up quite a bit to get Ryan and we felt as an organization that might be a piece that could push us deep in and get us into the Stanley Cup and win a Stanley Cup," Armstrong said in a conference call. "That’s why the trade was made. It didn’t work out that way, obviously. I understand.
"I think this job is about second-guessing. That’s the industry that I’ve chosen to be in, and that’s the job responsibility that I have. You make calculated decisions, you talk internally to your group, you move forward and, if they work, you’re hailed as a genius. And if they don’t work, you’re a dummy."
At this point the Blues might be closer to finding the Ark of the Covenant than winning the organization’s first Stanley Cup. OK, not really, but it must feel that way sometimes for Blues fans.
St. Louis’ first-round flameout against the rival Chicago Blackhawks left those who follow the Note to wonder what might have been had Armstrong not made the deal for Miller, who started out strong but struggled down the final stretch of the regular season and in the first-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
No, Miller wasn’t the reason the Blues lost that series. Armstrong made sure to remind reporters of that during his conference call. Re-signing Elliott is not a reflection on Miller, the general manager said.
"This shouldn’t come across as pointing the fingers at any one player," Armstrong said. "This is an organizational decision and this is an organization that didn’t get where we wanted to go to and Ryan was part of that but not the sole (factor)."
Elliott’s reported $7.5 million contract and experience in the NHL give him the early edge to win the No. 1 job, which is something that Elliott told Armstrong he was looking for this offseason. The 29-year-old didn’t have to look very far to find his opportunity.
The Blues’ GM said Elliott has done everything that has been asked of him.
"When you look at his save percentage and his goals-against average and then his win-loss record, that’s our industry," Armstrong said. "We’re in the win-loss industry and his numbers are very good."
Elliott’s contract is also team-friendly.
While no one knows yet what kind of money Miller will earn in his next deal, Elliott’s three-year total is roughly only $1.25 million more than Miller earned just last season in the final year of a monster five-year deal worth $31.25 million.
Armstrong still has plenty of work to do on the roster for next season but now, because of the money committed to Elliott and Allen, has a little more cash to work with. St. Louis has decisions/deals to make on re-signing restricted free agents Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrick Berglund and then figure out what to do with unrestricted free agents Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow, Derek Roy and Carlo Colaiacovo.
Then they’ll have to figure out which players to pursue in free agency, which begins July 1. The Blues have only eight forwards under contract for next season. They will need to find a way to improve a power-play unit that has gone punchless in their back-to-back playoff series losses.
"We’re always looking at trying to improve our team," Armstrong said Monday. "… We still have six weeks before July 1. You never know who is going to be there. Then you do a historical look-back … on players that have signed on July 1 and what type of impact have they really had on those organizations moving forward.
"We have to make good, strong, calculated business decisions on July 1, and if we can improve our team on that date we will, but it’s going to have to be in the feeling that it’s something that improves us for the term of the contract and not something that we do and we’re looking to get out of the contract in two months."
This is a team that has its core group of players signed to deals that should have them competing for the Cup for the next few seasons. Some difficult decisions lie ahead.
Armstrong knows this. If he makes the right decisions this offseason, the Blues will still be playing at this time next season, instead of doing conference calls with the media to discuss contracts.