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Bozak returns to Blues on one-year deal

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Tyler Bozak

St. Louis Blues center Tyler Bozak (21) grins after scoring in first period action in a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, April 5, 2021, at Enterprise Center. Photo by Laurie Skrivan,

Tyler Bozak, at 35, can once again lay claim to the title of being the oldest Blue after agreeing to a one-year contract on Tuesday that will pay him the league minimum of $750,000 for this season, though with performance bonuses his deal could go as high as $2 million.

Whatever figure he ends up at, it will be sizable drop from the three-year, $15 million deal he signed with the Blues in 2018 that led to the team winning its first Stanley Cup in 2019. But it’s a reality of the modern NHL: 35-year-old free agents don’t draw a lot of offers.

The signing of Bozak, who figures to be either a wing or center on the fourth line, points to questions about how soon Oskar Sundqvist will be ready. General manager Doug Armstrong recently said that Sundqvist would not be ready at the start of the season, but would be able to play not too far into the season. Armstrong said a better estimate of just how far that would be would come when camp starts next week.

Bozak played in just 31 games last season, missing 21 games with a concussion. He had five goals and 12 assists but remains a solid defensive player. He ranked 12th in the NHL in faceoff percentage last season at 56.8 percent, a skill that will earn him time late in games and on the penalty kill.

Bozak has also served a mentorship role with the Blues, often being teamed with young forwards. One of those players Bozak has helped guide is center Robert Thomas, who remains the only Blue still without a contract.

Bolduc on hold

Zach Bolduc, the Blues’ first-round pick in this summer’s draft, won’t be on the ice during prospects camp after suffering a lower-body injury during his junior camp. The Blues said he will re-evaluated prior to going to Traverse City on Thursday for the prospects tournament that starts Friday.

“It’s a lot more (being) cautious,” said Tim Taylor, the Blues director of player development. “We’re going to give him a couple days off the ice. He was skating and participating in camp back in Quebec, so it’s just more cautious. He’s a first-round pick and we want to make sure everything is OK with him.”

Prospect robbed

One of the players in town for the prospects camp, who has not been identified, was robbed at gunpoint on the Arch grounds on Monday night, the team said.

“Our player,” Armstrong said in a statement released by the team, “is safe as local authorities work to apprehend the suspect.”

The timing matches a police report that says a 20-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman were on the Arch grounds just before 7:30 p.m. when a man with a gun ran up and demanded their property, fleeing with their cellphones, keys, wallet and purse.

Blues notes

Taylor said that forward Alexei Toropchenko, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2017, could see ice time in the NHL this season. Toropchenko spent last season playing on loan to the KHL. “It gave him another year of development and getting bigger and stronger and honing his game,” Taylor said. “We’re really excited about him. He’s a guy that I feel is very close. I think he’s going to give us games at the NHL level this year. He just needs to really get a little bit better in his own end on the boards and on details.”

Another prospect with a shot at making the big club this season is forward Nikita Alexandrov, the team’s second-round pick in 2019 who played last season in Finland. “I think he needs a good year in the minors. We’ll see where he’s at,” Taylor said. “At the same time, I could see him coming up and giving us games as well.”

Goalie Joel Hofer, who led Canada to the gold medal at the 2020 world junior tournament, is next in line for the Blues after Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso, Taylor said. “We expect him to be our third guy within the organization so he’s got to be ready and keep progressing,” Taylor said.

Blues TV analyst Darren Pang will also be part of the broadcast team for TNT, one of the networks now televising the NHL. Pang will work games with play-by-play man Brendan Burke.

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