There was much more to Monday’s release of forward Dmitrij Jaskin than just his play this preseason for the Blues.
“At the end of last year, Dmitrij asked if it was possible for a trade,” general manager Armstrong said. “He felt his career was stagnating. And I understood that.
“So at the draft I informed all the teams that he was looking for a new opportunity. That didn’t transpire. At training camp, I reconfirmed with all the (general) managers that he was looking for a different opportunity, and I didn’t get any calls.
“Part of it, too, is you look at things a little differently when people don’t want to be around. I was gonna be comfortable if he cleared waivers being part of our organization. It might have been something that could’ve sparked him with us.”
But anticipating a suspension for forward Tom Wilson, Washington claimed Jaskin on waivers. Wilson indeed got suspended — for 20 games — on Wednesday for a high check and a blindside hit on the Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist in Sunday’s preseason game.
Sundqvist began the year on injured reserve as a result of that hit with what Armstrong called a concussion and a shoulder injury.
“So we actually lose two players in that transaction,” Armstrong joked. “We lose Sundqvist and we lose Jaskin. But I wish Jaskin nothing but the best. He’s been a good soldier. It’s been a difficult time because he wanted more and we couldn’t give him more.”
While the rest of the Blues complete preparations for Thursday’s season opener against visiting Winnipeg, Saturday can’t get here fast enough for defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.
Bortuzzo was given a three-game suspension by the NHL for elbowing Washington’s Michal Kempny in a Sept. 25 preseason game in St. Louis against the Capitals. That kept him sidelined for the Blues’ final two preseason games and will keep him out of the lineup Thursday against the Jets.
“I’m trying to just play hard hockey, and it was an unfortunate play with an unfortunate result, with no (bad) intent,” Bortuzzo said. “I’ll pretty much leave it at that. But believe me, I’m very, very disappointed in not being able to be out there for opening night.”
A defensive defenseman with physicality to his game, Bortuzzo is coming off his best NHL season, establishing career highs for games played (72), goals (four) and points (13).
“All my career is just trying to build every year,” he said.
This also is a contract year for Bortuzzo, 29, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He’ll just get things started a game later in 2018-19, making his debut in Saturday’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
BUTLER COMES BACK
The combination of Bortuzzo’s suspension, injuries to Joel Edmundson and Carl Gunnarsson, and visa issues for recently acquired Jakub Jerabek left the Blues short-handed on the blue line for the start of the season.
As a result, the Blues recalled Chris Butler from San Antonio for some temp duty. Butler, a St. Louisan who played high school hockey at Chaminade, is scheduled to play on the third pairing against Winnipeg with Jordan Schmaltz.
“It was a bit of a shock to get that news,” Butler, 31, said. “I understand my position and where I sit with my age and a lot of the younger defensemen we’ve got coming in. And I understand my role.”
He may only be around for a game or two, until Bortuzzo and Edmundson return. Edmundson didn’t practice again Wednesday because of a groin injury.
“But to be able to be part of an opening night, to be able to see the buzz that’s around the city ... whether it’s just for opening night or whether it’s for a week, whatever, it’s something I’ll remember for a long time.” Butler said.
BETTMAN IN TOWN
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will be on hand for the Winnipeg game, to take in opening night, view the latest round of renovations at Enterprise Center and visit the construction site of the Blues’ future practice facility in Maryland Heights. There will be no announcement on St. Louis’ bid to host an All-Star game in 2020 or 2021.
2018-19 Blues season preview
Compiled by Post-Dispatch hockey writers Jim Thomas and Tom Timmermann, and columnists Jeff Gordon, Benjamin Hochman and Ben Frederickson.
Mike Yeo is no longer the Blues’ new coach. His team is no longer in transition. He’s the man under pressure to lead the Blues back to where they belong, to push them toward the prize they have never claimed.
Can Jake Allen make it through an entire season without something happening that goes on far too long to qualify as a hiccup? Being off for one or two games is one thing; even a week can happen. But a month? Now you’re talking trouble.
With newcomer Ryan O’Reilly igniting offensive opportunities, a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko should finish in the low 40s in goals, not the low 30s.
Brayden Schenn not only has company at center going into the 2018-19 season, he has established players — Ryan O'Reilly and Tyler Bozak — with a track record of production and consistent play.
If Alex Pietrangelo went through a major change two years ago when he became Blues captain, a job that carries all sorts of responsibilities, that’s nothing compared to the responsibilities that come with having triplets.
Western Conference teams at a glance, in projected order of finish for 2018-19: