Blues general manager Doug Armstrong signed two unrestricted free agents and one restricted free agent to new contracts on Saturday shortly after NHL free agency opened at 11 a.m. CT.
Unrestricted free agent forward Chris Thorburn will join the Blues after signing a two-year deal worth $1.8 million. In addition, unrestricted free agent forward Beau Bennett will also join the club on a one-year deal worth $650,000.
Oskar Sundqvist, a restricted free agent who the Blues acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins last week along with a first-round draft pick, has agreed to a one-year deal worth $650,000.
Thorburn, 34, brings plenty of grit, heart, toughness and a crash-and-bang style of play along with him. He also never shies away from a good scrap or when one of his teammates needs defending.
“We brought in Chris Thorburn to solidify our bottom-six group after losing Ryan Reaves,” Armstrong said in an exclusive interview for stlouisblues.com on Saturday. “Our research says he has unbelievable character… When you have your teammates’ backs all the time like Thorburn, you gain that instant respect. He’s a big man – about 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. He’s a good fit for what we needed.”
Thorburn has played in 12 NHL seasons – 10 of which were spent with the Winnipeg Jets franchise. Last season, he played in 64 games, scoring four points (three goals and one assist) to go along with 95 minutes. In a career that has spanned 750 regular season games, he has 127 points (52 goals, 75 assists) and 908 penalty minutes.
Bennett, 25, is a solid bottom-six forward that is coming off the most productive season of his career with the New Jersey Devils. Bennett posted career highs in goals (8), assists (11) and points (19) in 2016-17. A former first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins (No. 20 overall), the 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward helped Pittsburgh capture a Stanley Cup championship in 2016.
In 194 career regular season games, Bennett has scored 24 goals and 40 assists (64 points).
“When I look at our depth right now, we’re giving a lot of younger players a lot of opportunity,” Armstrong said of Bennett. “Underneath that, the players that will be in the American Hockey League have very minimal to no NHL experience. We want to make sure – as injuries are part of the game – that we have some experienced players that can help us out as necessary.”
Sundqvist, 23, appeared in 63 regular season games for Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the American Hockey League last season, finishing third on the club with 20 goals and 46 points overall. He dressed in 10 regular season games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, registering two penalty minutes. Overall, the Boden, Sweden native has played in 28 career regular season games, recording four points (one goal, three assists).
“We’re hoping, with the (Patrik) Berglund injury, he can step right in and get a good look at that third-line center spot,” Armstrong said of Sundqvist. “If not, he’ll certainly be in our group of 14 to start the season. Like a lot of guys, they have to push and prod to find a spot on our roster.
“His offense came last year in the American Hockey League, and he’s another big man,” Armstrong added. “Very detail oriented, which we like – a 200-foot player. We hope the offense transfers from what he did in the American League to the NHL, but right now we just want to get him in here and become a dependable player for us.”