Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo has a spot waiting for him in the Blues’ starting lineup in 2015-16. But before Thursday, he didn’t have a contract for next season.
The two sides took care of that about 24 hours after Bortuzzo became a restricted free agent, agreeing to a two-year, $2.1 million extension Thursday and avoiding potential arbitration.
“I’m extremely excited,” Bortuzzo said. “Obviously it’s a very strong organization, held in high regard around the league. I’ve enjoyed my time there, as short as it’s been. But I’m looking forward to playing for a contender. We have a lot of pieces in place, so to be a part of that will be exciting.”
The Blues also added a forward, signing Kyle Brodziak, who played last season for Minnesota, to a one-year contract.
The Blues are penciling Bortuzzo, 26, into their regular rotation next season. He’s expected to be in the team’s third pairing with Petteri Lindbohm.
Bortuzzo played in 13 regular-season games with the Blues last season after arriving in the deal that sent Ian Cole to the Penguins. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound blue-liner had one goal, two points and 25 penalty minutes, immediately building a reputation as a player who would stick up for his teammates.
“I like having that size on the back-end,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “He and Lindbohm are going to give us a little bit of a snarl back there. Younger guys, good skaters.”
Bortuzzo suffered an undisclosed injury late in the regular season and did not play in the postseason. After the club’s first-round exit, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said that it would have been too difficult for Bortuzzo to get up to speed due to the injury.
But after reaching an agreement Thursday, a healthy Bortuzzo is looking forward to being back in the lineup and now among the team’s top-six defensemen.
“I’ve kind of been in that 6-7 role my whole career,” he said. “So to have that vote of confidence from the organization is obviously exciting for myself moving forward.”
Brodziak played in 73 games with the Wild last season, with nine goals and 11 assists. The 31-year-old scored 22 goals in 2011-12 but hasn’t had more than nine in a season since. He played all six games of the Wild-Blues playoff series but didn’t have any points. His deal is for $900,000.
Bortuzzo’s deal leaves forward Vladimir Tarasenko and goaltender Jake Allen as the Blues’ remaining unsigned RFAs on their projected NHL roster.