St. Louis Blues Invite Martin Havlat, Dainius Zubrus for Professional Tryouts


With a pool of forward depth that has evaporated at an alarming rate, with Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz out until at least January and Paul Stastny out until late November, the St. Louis Blues are taking some steps to look at a few alternative options. Veteran forwards Martin Havlat and Dainius Zubrus, both of whom are unsigned after spending the 2014-15 season with the New Jersey Devils, have been invited to begin practicing with the team on a professional tryout basis. Each player will get the opportunity to be with the team for up to 10 days without a contract. During that time, the Blues will have to decide whether one or both players is capable of bringing enough to the team to be worth signing to a contract.

The 34-year-old Havlat, a veteran of 788 NHL games, had five goals and nine assists last year for the Devils over 40 games. He’s historically been a strong defensive forward, and at least at one point, he was a solid playmaker, as he’s scored 20-plus goals in six different NHL seasons (though he’s scored double-digit goals just once in the past four years). He was in training camp with the Florida Panthers on a professional tryout deal earlier this fall, but was not signed to a contract at camp’s conclusion.

Zubrus, a 37-year-old Lithuanian center who towers over his opponents at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, wrapped up an eight-season stint with New Jersey this past spring. He’s a veteran of 18 NHL seasons and didn’t seem to have much left in the tank during 2014-15 for the Devils, as he had just four goals and six assists over 74 games. Unlike Havlat, however, Zubrus has never made his mark as a scorer, instead possessing a reputation as a big, sturdy forward with plus defensive awareness. He’s also well-regarded for his durability; he dressed for all 82 games in four of his seven full seasons with the Devils, and including playoff games he suited up for 595 contests over eight years. Zurbrus, who has been in the NHL full-time since he was 18 years old, has played in 1,335 total contests over the course of his long career.

While it’s frustrating to see younger, higher-upside forwards like Ty Rattie and Magnus Paajarvi not receive more wholesome chances with the Blues, Havlat and Zubrus could more closely fit the bill of what the Blues are looking for. With a full compliment of forwards currently available that truly fit to be in the lineup on a nightly basis, it doesn’t really make sense for the Blues to have a forward in his early 20s, such as Rattie, sitting in the press box on a frequent basis when he could be further developing his skills as a top-line forward at AHL Chicago. That may be less of an issue for Paajarvi, a 24-year-old who’s played parts of five seasons in the NHL and can’t seem to earn another chance despite being signed to a one-way, $700,000 contract and having seven points in his first five AHL games this year. But for Rattie, a 22-year-old who’s still in just his third professional season, it would probably be more beneficial for him to continue to play regularly if he can’t supplant players like Scott Gomez and Scottie Upshall in the lineup.

Via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Jeremy Rutherford, Blues GM Doug Armstrong said on Tuesday night that the Blues will still consider in-house players for promotions, including Paajarvi and 2014 second-rounder Ivan Barbashev, but he doesn’t want to disrupt Chicago’s team until a definitive decision has been made. Armstrong also seemed to allude to the fact that the organization may not fully trust players on their current roster, including Rattie and rookie Robby Fabbri, who has six tryout games remaining before the Blues need to decide whether to send him back to juniors:

In an interesting pattern of events, Halvat and Zubrus are the third and fourth players, respectively, who were teammates of Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils and have been brought in by the Blues since the former goalie became the team’s assistant GM in May. They join center Scott Gomez, who made the NHL club after attending training camp on a tryout basis, and defenseman Peter Harrold, who is currently playing with the Wolves.

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