Youth can be as scary as it is exciting. While the terms “veteran leader” and “good locker room guy” initiate a gag reflex, a team high on young and still relatively unproven talent is justified in its search for leadership.
Edmonton has already taken this path with their trade to re-acquire Ryan Smyth. A former sixth overall pick by the Oilers in 1994, Smyth will be given babysitting duties for a team with an offence led by three sophomores and future stars (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi), and with 18-year-old first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also on his way.
The St. Louis Blues are in a similar position, so instead of signing just one veteran who we can repeatedly call grizzled, they brought in two.
The Blues signed free agents Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to one-year contracts, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Both will soon be on the wrong side of 35 (Arnott is 36, while Langenbrunner turns 36 on July 24), and they’re coming off their lowest career point totals. Combined Arnott and Langenbrunner scored 26 goals and 54 points this year.
But the value of Arnott and Langenbrunner–who were both captains for their respective teams at the start of last season before getting dealt prior to the trade deadline–will extend beyond the boxscore for a St. Louis team with a core built primarily on young and sometimes inconsistent players. Forwards David Perron, Chris Stewart, and T.J. Oshie are all under the age of 25 along with defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, making the search for veteran anchors a priority for GM Doug Armstrong.
As those creaky old bones get older and creakier, health becomes an obvious question mark whenever aging players are signed to fulfill a role that has something to do with sandpaper. This especially applies to Arnott, who has posted sound offensive numbers and is only three years removed from a 72-point season. Despite his continued offensive contributions, Arnott has missed 48 games since 2007-08.
Armstrong will use those well-worn hockey clichés to describe his motivation behind these signings. But we suspect the real reason he brought in Arnott and Langenbrunner is because he’s slowly trying to reassemble the pieces of those great Devils teams from a decade ago.
Hey Doug, we hear Scott Gomez could be available.
UPDATE: Rutherford reports that both Arnott and Langenbrunner will make $2.5 million next year, with potential bonuses that could boost that number to $2.8 million.
That represents a drop of $2 million for Arnott compared to his recently expired contract, which seems like fair value for a forward whose primary role is to provide leadership, but if healthy he can still hover around the 40-point mark.
Meanwhile, Langenbrunner’s cap value and paycheque didn’t change with his new contract.