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July 1 | A day in Blues history that made positive impacts on franchise

The Blues have made some big decisions on July 1 in their history. But which trades/signings make the top 10?
Credit: AP
St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly carries the Stanley Cup during the team's NHL hockey Stanley Cup victory parade in St. Louis on Saturday, June 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

ST. LOUIS — What was supposed to be shopping day in the NHL on Wednesday, aka free agent frenzy day, nothing seems normal at the moment on the world.

July 1 is when teams, especially those with an ungodly amounts of salary cap space to spent gobs of money, are supposed to open their check books and dole out the cash to players open for business.

But with COVID-19 still dominating headlines and keeping sports, including the NHL, to a halt at the moment, there will be no player movement on this day. 

It's a day in which the Blues have made some brilliant moves and there are some that simply didn't pan out. But that's with every team.

So with that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 most impactful moves the Blues made on this date in history, ones that put a positive mark on one way, shape or form, on this franchise:

10) July 1, 2000 -- Signed C Dallas Drake to four-year, $9 million ($2.25M AAV) contract.

-- It wasn't what one would call a splashy signing at the time when Drake first signed with the Blues, it was probably more so to do with what he stuck around to help do post lockout of 2004-05.

Drake, who spent six seasons in St. Louis, was named the 18th captain in Blues history for the 2005-06 season, which was one of the worst in franchise history when they went 21-46-15, good for 57 points and last place in the league.

Drake had 170 points (64 goals, 106 assists) in 443 regular-season games in St. Louis and helped them to four playoff seasons, where he six goals and seven assists in 35 games, but when he signed a two-year, $2.2 million contract on July 1, 2006 to remain in St. Louis, he helped the Blues eventually transition from worst in the NHL to climbing the ladder and becoming respectable again as the decade progressed.

Drake would finish his 15-year NHL career back where it started, with the Detroit Red Wings, in 2007-08 before retiring.

9) July 1, 2007 -- Signed LW Paul Kariya to three-year, $18 million contract.

-- Coming out of the lockout, the Blues were simply a bad hockey club that made a tremendous improvement, going from 57 points in 2005-06 to 81 points (34-35-13) in 2006-07.

They needed a splashy move, they needed to start filling the cupboard with name players, impact players that could push them over the top, or at least continue that upward trend.

But who would want to come to a non-playoff team? The Blues needed to sell themselves and were able to do so with Kariya, who was on the back end of his career but still someone who could make an impact.

Then-Blues president John Davidson really wanted Kariya and the Blues gave him a nice contract at $6 million per season.

Kariya's numbers in St. Louis weren't great (123 points in 168 games; 36 goals and 87 assists), but concussion injuries forced him to miss all but 11 games in 2008-09 when the Blues just missed out on making the playoffs again with 92 points. He had 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 82 games his first season with the Blues in 2007-08 and 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 75 games in his third season with St. Louis in 2008-09.

The Blues didn't make the playoffs in any of Kariya's three season's here, but they started to get the attention of players around the league that St. Louis should be a destination again, and that the Blues were on the cusp of being a playoff squad again.  

8) July 1, 2011 -- Signed G Brian Elliott to a one-year, $600,000 contract.

-- It may not have looked like much at the time, but boy, for the price and even in the two ensuing contracts Elliott would go on to sign with the Blues were a bargain.

The man they called 'Moose,' who came from the Colorado Avalanche after spending three-plus seasons with the Ottawa Senators, made an immediate impact in his first season with the Blues.

He teamed up with Jaroslav Halak in 2011-12 to win the Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goalie/goalies for allowing the fewest goals. Elliott and Halak allowed 165 in helping the Blues come within two points of the Presidents' Trophy with 109 (49-22-11) and make it to the second round of the playoffs.

Elliott was 23-10-4 with a league-leading 1.56 goals-against average and league-leading .940 save percentage in 38 games, his first season with the Blues.

Elliott would sign a two-year, $3.6 million extension on Jan. 18, 2012 and then sign a three-year, $7.5 million contract on May 14, 2014. 

He would go 104-46-16 with a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in his five seasons with the Blues that included five straight postseason appearances, although he didn't play in the 2013-14 playoffs when the Blues acquired Ryan Miller down the stretch. Elliott holds the Blues franchise record for shutouts with 25.

Elliott was 14-17 with a 2.32 GAA and .912 save percentage in 33 postseason games in St. Louis but was traded to the Calgary Flames on June 24, 2016 for a conditional third-round pick in 2018, a move the Blues made to allow Elliott the chance to move on and be a clear-cut No. 1 goalie when the Blues gave every sense the transition to Jake Allen was about to happen. 

But for what they got and how much they paid for his services, Elliott, who is currently with the Philadelphia Flyers, more than did his job in St. Louis.

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7) July 1, 2014 -- Signed C Paul Stastny to four-year, $28 million contract.

-- The Blues' transition back to being a formidable foe in the Western Conference under Ken Hitchcock was in full swing, and they made arguably the biggest splash of the day by bringing 'Paulie Walnuts' back home.

Stastny wasn't born in St. Louis but grew up here when his Hall of Fame father, Peter Stastny, was finishing out his career with the Blues and Paul attended Chaminade High School and played for the hockey program there.

But Stastny was coming off a 60-point season (25 goals, 35 assists) with the Avalanche, his eighth with the club that drafted him in the second round in 2005, and was a wanted commodity.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong stepped up in offering him a contract at $7 million AAV to become the team's No. 1 center.

Stastny wasn't a bust, but his numbers really didn't reflect that bang for the buck. He never fulfilled a complete season while in St. Louis due to injuries, never playing more than 74 games, his first here.

He finished with 174 points (56 goals, 119 assists) in three-plus seasons (267 regular-season games) but helped lead the Blues to three straight playoff berths, including the Western Conference Final in 2016; he had five goals and 11 assists in 33 playoff games with the Blues.

The Blues were teetering on the edge of the playoffs and being out of it in 2017-18, and Armstrong made the bold move of dealing Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26, 2018 for a package that included prospect Erik Foley, a conditional 2018 first-round pick and a conditional 2020 4th-round pick.

Stastny, 34, is currently in his second season with the Vegas Golden Knights.

6) July 1, 2001 -- Acquired C Doug Weight and F Michel Riesen from Edmonton for F's Marty Reasoner and Jochen Hecht and D Jan Horacek.

The Oilers were having financial issues at the time, and the Blues pounced. This is a day all about signing free agents, but the Blues made one of the splashiest moves on this date 19 years ago.

Weight was a restricted free agent coming off a 90-point season (25 goals, 65 assists) with the Oilers but Edmonton knew they couldn't keep him. 

After the Blues acquired Weight, he signed a five-year $40.5 million contract.

Weight's impact as a leader helped the Blues maintain their top status and they were playoff participants in his first three seasons in St. Louis, but the point production wasn't on par with the price tag that came along with his contract. Injuries also riddled Weight, who did have back-to-back 60-plus point seasons in 2002-03 (67) and 2003-04 (65).

But when he came back following the lockout, the Blues were going nowhere, and they shipped him to the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 30, 2006 along with the rights to F Erkki Rajamaki for forwards Mike Zigomanis and Jesse Boulerice, the rights to F Magnus Kahnberg, a 2006 first-round pick and 2007 4th round pick. 

Weight helped Carolina win the Stanley Cup that season despite injuring his shoulder in the finals against Edmonton.

He would return to St. Louis the following season on a two-year, $7 million contract as a veteran to help that transition from bottom-feeder to get the Blues back to respectability.

After putting up 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 82 games in 2006-07, Weight was traded the following season to the Anaheim Ducks that netted the Blues C Andy McDonald, who would go on to have five-plus solid seasons in the Bluenote.

So even though Weight didn't net the Blues a Stanley Cup or put up gaudy numbers with his first massive contract, there were other components involving him that helped the franchise in terms of betterment.

Weight finished his career with the New York Islanders, became an assistant coach and assistant GM, then head coach there and is currently out of hockey. He played 19 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Oilers, Blues, Hurricanes, Ducks and Islanders, finishing with 1,033 points (278 goals, 755 assists) in 1,238 games.

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5) July 1, 2010 -- Named Doug Armstrong executive vice president and general manager.

Armstrong had already been with the Blues for two seasons as the director of player personnel following 17 seasons with the Dallas Stars. But on this date 10 years ago, he succeeded Larry Pleau as the team's GM after Pleau's retirement.

And as any GM will tell you, there are ups and there are downs, in terms of how a season goes or evaluating any transaction, but one thing one can say about Armstrong, he's always been a go-getter and after 10 years of wheeling and dealing, Armstrong became the first Blues GM to deliver the Stanley Cup in 2019.

It all came together after what one would call an inauspicious beginning to the 2018-19 season after Armstrong acquired C Ryan O'Reilly and signed RW David Perron, C Tyler Bozak and LW Pat Maroon.

He would fire Mike Yeo a month into the season and elevate Craig Berube and the rest is history once the Blues put things all together and oh, some guy named Jordan Binnington came along to thrust the Blues upward, but Armstrong's moves, along with the blessing of ownership to go out and spend the money, set the Blues up for success and they delivered. 

Armstrong was named president of hockey pperations and GM on Sept. 3, 2013 when the Blues chose to keep him and move on from Davidson after Armstrong served three seasons as the executive vice president of hockey operations and two seasons as the vice president of player personnel.

4) July 1, 2008 -- Matched the offer sheet of the Vancouver Canucks and signed F David Backes to three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Backes was one of those young faces of the franchise that the Blues groomed and developed at the time, good, young players that were drafted to help elevate the Blues back to a good place.

The Blues selected Backes in the second round of the 2003 NHL Draft and after two seasons beginning in 2006-07, the Canucks came calling on a young 24-year-old that the Blues, in the end, were not about to part with.

And it turned out to be a good move, too, as Backes would play 10 years in St. Louis and lead them to the Western Conference Final in 2016; he was named 20th captain in franchise history prior to the 2011-12 season.

Backes signed a five-year, $22.5 million extension on Nov. 12, 2010.

Backes played 707 regular-season games in a Blues uniform and finished with 460 points (204 goals, 256 assists) and helped the Blues to the playoffs six times.

He left St. Louis as a free agent and signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Boston Bruins on July 1, 2016 and faced the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Backes, who currently plays for the Ducks, goes down as one of the most respected Blues of all time and played with the heart, skill and grit that fans appreciated on a nightly basis. His leadership was top notch in the locker room, and his play was equally as impressive on the ice.

Armstrong would not commit a fifth year that the Bruins did when Backes was looking for a new contract in 2016, thus letting their captain go at the time, and ultimately, allowed the Blues' GM to make some of the acquisitions he did leading up to the Cup run.

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3) July 1, 2018 -- Signed C Tyler Bozak to three-year, $15 million contract.

-- Again, not one of those splashy signings, but bringing in the veteran Bozak at the time when the Blues were in need of leadership and someone with experience down the middle of the ice paid dividends in the end.

Bozak was a nine-year veteran of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he was not brought in here to be a point-producing savior. He was brought in to be a responsible, defensive-minded, experienced guy who has a penchant for points when needed but one who brings stability in the smaller areas.

In his two seasons with the Blues, he's scored 26 goals and added 41 assists while adding another 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 26 playoff games a year ago.

Remember the big goal Bozak scored, what turned out to be the game-winner in Winnipeg of a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the first round? How about the icing on the cake goal scored in the series-clinching Game 6 5-1 win over San Jose on the conference final? How about the guy that's won roughly 55 percent of his face-offs since arriving in St. Louis? How about the voice in the locker room, especially for the young guys that need an experienced voice?

Oh, and how about the guy that said, "I want to win a Cup. So damn bad. ... That’s why I signed in St. Louis. There’s your headline. Print it."

Well, he won one, so damn bad, then the headline printed itself.

2) July 1, 2018 -- Signed RW David Perron to four-year, $16 million contract.

-- The third time's a charm, right?

Well, in this instance, it was.

Perron was originally drafted by the Blues in the first round of the 2007 draft and burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old. He was traded to Edmonton July 10, 2013, moved on to Pittsburgh, then Anaheim, then signed with the Blues as a free agent July 1, 2016, getting a two-year, $7.5 million contract. If that wasn't enough, Perron was claimed by Vegas in the expansion draft June 21, 2017, made it to the Cup final in the Golden Knights' first season but always had an eye for his home in St. Louis.

Something always kept bringing Perron back to where it all began, even after being traded and left unprotected for the expansion draft. 

And somehow, someway, Perron keeps producing here.

He had 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in 57 games (he missed 25 games due to a concussion) last season in the regular season, then added 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 26 playoffs games, finally winning the Cup in his 12th season; he's followed it up with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 71 games this season before the regular season got cut short due to COVID-19.

Perron was one of those young players drafted, much like Backes, that the Blues were building around. His journey took some adventurous rides, but as a veteran now, his experience added to a room last season that needed his offensive output and chemistry with whoever he played with.

Perron is a Quebec native, but St. Louis holds a special place in his heart, and no matter where the journey leads, eventually, home is where the heart is. 

1) July 1, 2018 -- Acquired C Ryan O'Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres for C Patrik Berglund, C Vladimir Sobotka and C Tage Thompson, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.

-- With the moves the Blues made on this day, it was only fitting that this one was made in the early evening hours, just when fans were exhausted for the day, this one raised the adrenaline back up.

Listen, there's no other way of saying this but to say this is, by far, the most impactful, best move the Blues have made on this day in franchise history.

Even before they won the Cup last season, and O'Reilly even said in his initial phone call with Armstrong to "Let's go win a Cup," this was a player that brought a presence both on and off the ice.

O'Reilly started his career with the Avalanche before being shipped to the Sabres in 2015, and when the Sabres gave O'Reilly a lucrative seven-year, $52.5 million contract that included $45.5 million of that money in signing bonuses, it was a sign of making this player one of the faces of the franchise, a franchise in need of any boost.

But O'Reilly made the wrong headlines in Buffalo after another disappointing, non-playoff season when he disclosed to a end-of-season media session that he lost his love of the game and lacked mental toughness.

That was on April 8. Less than three months later, he was shipped to the Blues, who were looking to acquire the versatile two-way centerman for some time, according to Armstrong. O'Reilly was due a $7.5 million signing bonus on the day the Blues acquired him and they had no issues paying the price tag.

The Blues had no qualms about what O'Reilly had said three months prior. They felt if they put him in a winning culture, a winning locker room, his all-around upside would come to the forefront.

O'Reilly produced a career-best 77 points last season, and career-tying 28 goals in 82 games, then went out and put up 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 26 games helping the Blues win the Cup and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process.

He's followed it up with 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) this season in 71 games. 

O'Reilly is one of the top face-off specialists in the league and draws the top defensive responsibilities. His voice in the locker room is powerful, his voice in the community has also become important, and it's clear that O'Reilly has fit, probably better than even the Blues expected, in St. Louis.

As for the return Buffalo got from the Blues? Well, Berglund is out of the league and playing in his native Sweden, Sobotka played in just 16 games this season because of injury and has just six goals and 10 assists in two seasons with the Sabres, and as for Thompson, who the Blues selected in the first round in 2016, it's been a challenging learning curve trying to be a consistent NHL player; he played in just one game with the Sabres this season after 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 65 games last season.

Blues center Ryan O'Reilly celebrates as he hoists the Stanley Cup on June

12, 2019 following a 4-1 Game 7 win over the Boston Bruins. 

The Sabres drafted defenseman Ryan Johnson with their pick from the Blues last season, so it's too soon to tell what kind of an impact he can make in the NHL, and they still get a pick in the second round next season from St. Louis, but considering what O'Reilly has already brought to the Blues in his two seasons, it'll be hard to convince anyone that this was an even-steven trade. 

I'm of that belief, too.

And this transaction may be the greatest of all-time in Blues history, even topping when the Blues traded for Brett Hull, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and some of the other high-impact trades/signings they made simply because of the presence O'Reilly brought that ultimately helped St. Louis win the Stanley Cup.