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Blues face Sharks in game 3

Blues left wing Sammy Blais tries to steal the puck from San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson during Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at Enterprise Center. Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com

The heart of the Blues' free agency will be in retaining their long list of restricted free agents, and the team took a step in that direction by re-signing forward Sammy Blais on Monday, the first day of the NHL free agency period.

Blais, 23, has agreed to a one-year, one-way deal worth $850,000.

Blais appeared in 32 regular-season games, scoring two goals with two assists. He also had a shootout goal on Feb. 23 to give the Blues a 2-1 home victory over Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins.

He was a healthy scratch in the Blues' first 11 playoff games, but played in the final 15 postseason contests with one goal and two assists. He was plus-3 overall in those 15 games. His one playoff goal was a big one, helping the Blues finish off Dallas 4-1 in Game 6 of their Round 2 series not long after Stars goalie Ben Bishop had been dazed with a Colton Parayko shot.

Blais was among nine restricted free agents to receive qualifying offers from the Blues, including seven who were on their Stanley Cup roster. He spent much of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons bouncing back and forth between the team's AHL affiliate in San Antonio and St. Louis, but was a much more physical player this season.

AUSTRALIAN FORWARD SIGNS

The Blues got on the board in free agency with a depth signing. The team has agreed to terms with forward Nathan Walker on a two-year deal.

It's a two-way contract, paying Walker $700,000 this coming season if he's in the NHL and $300,000 if he's in the American Hockey League. In the second year of the deal, Walker gets $700,000 (NHL) and $350,000 (AHL).

Walker, 25, was born in Wales but grew up in Australia. He has played all over, including for Australia in international play and in the Czech Republic at the junior level.

He became the first Australian drafted when the Washington Capitals selected him 89th overall in 2014. He subsequently became the first Australian to play in the NHL, although it's a slim resumé with only 12 regular-season games.

He played in three games for the Capitals last season with one assist, spending most of the season with the Hershey Bears of the AHL. He had 17 goals and 22 assists in 58 games for the Bears.

MORE SIGNINGS

Besides Walker, the Blues made five other two-way depth signings Monday: forwards Nick Lappin, Evan Polei and Michael Vecchione, and defenseman Derrick Pouliot and Jake Dotchin.

Pouliot is the most intriguing in the group, having played 133 games over the past two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Pouliot a left-handed shooter, was a healthy scratch against the Blues in the 2018-19 regular-season finale between the teams.

But he played 17 minutes-plus in two December games against St. Louis _ both Canucks' victories _ and was plus-4 with one assist overall in those contests.

He was originally a No. 8 overall selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2012 and has played in 200 NHL games overall. Pouliot, 25, was not given a qualifying offer by Vancouver as a restricted free agent.

In 62 games for the Canucks this past season, he had three goals, nine assists and was minus-1.

Like Pouliot, Dotchin was not given a qualifying offer as an RFA by Anaheim. He was a sixth-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2012 and has appeared in 103 NHL games overall, including 20 last season for the Ducks (with no goals and one assist).

Lappin, 26, has played in 60 NHL games overall, including 11 last season for the New Jersey Devils with no goals or assists. In 56 games last season with Binghamton of the AHL, he had 19 goals and 15 assists.

Polei, 23, was in Edmonton Oilers camp at the start of last season, but has yet to play an NHL regular-season game. He has spent most of the past three seasons with Bakersfield of the AHL and had nine goals and 11 assists in 53 games for the Condors last season.

Vecchione, 26, had 15 goals and 23 assists last season in 67 games for Lehigh Valley of the AHL. He has played in two NHL games, in 2016-17 for the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Blues also had forwards Cam Darcy, Zach Nastasiuk and J.J. Piccinich agree to terms on AHL contracts with San Antonio.

All three played in the AHL last season. Darcy had 10 goals and 13 assists in 68 games with the Utica Comets. Nastasiuk had five goals and six assists in 43 games for the Charlotte Checkers. Piccinich had no goals and one assist in six games for the Toronto Marlies.

WOTHERSPOON TO PHILLY

Defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon, who was in Blues training camp last preseason but spent the entire 2018-19 campaign with the San Antonio Rampage, has signed with the Philadelphia Flyers as an unrestricted free agent.

It's a two-year, two-way deal for Wotherspoon, good for an average of $700,000 if he stays at the NHL level. Wotherspoon, 26, had four goals and 18 assists and was minus-3 in 70 games for the Rampage last season.

A second-round pick by Calgary in 2011, Wotherspoon has played in only 30 NHL games _ all with the Flames.

He had been signed to a one-year, two-way deal by the Blues last year at this time.

Jim Thomas covers Blues hockey for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.