Pat Maroon, the self-proclaimed hometown hero of the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship run, is leaving home. Maroon has agreed to a one-year $900,000 deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning as an unrestricted free agent after one memorable season in St. Louis.
“This is bittersweet for me,” Maroon said Saturday night via social media. “I want to start by saying thank you to the St. Louis Blues organization for giving me a chance to play in my hometown and living out a dream that I had since I was a kid to put on the Blue Note.
“Thank you to the loyal Blues fans who stuck by me even through the bad — you guys are some of the best in the game.”
Maroon, who attended Oakville High, also thanked the Blues’ medical staff, trainers and equipment managers.
As for his teammates, Maroon said: “This one is tough. I love you guys. What an absolute ride. We accomplished the impossible and I loved going to work with you boys every day and every night, but we have June 12, 2019 forever.”
That was the night the visiting Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to win the franchise’s first NHL championship.
Maroon and the Blues also will always have May 7, 2019. That was the night Maroon’s overtime goal gave St. Louis a 2-1 victory over the visiting Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. It’s a play that will forever be remembered as one of the greatest goals in franchise history.
Although it’s not known for certain if the Blues actually made a formal contract offer to Maroon, they stayed in regular contact with the veteran forward throughout the free agency process. As recently as Friday, the team spoke with Maroon’s agent according to general manager Doug Armstrong.
But in the end he signed for only one year with Tampa Bay, and for little more than half the $1.75 million he made last season with the Blues.
“We would like to thank Pat for a remarkable season and wish he and his family the best in Tampa,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch shortly after the Lightning announced the deal. “Pat will always hold a special place in the heart of the Blues’ organization.
“Pat came home to help the team win its first Stanley Cup and scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history against the Stars in double OT.”
With nine restricted free agents to re-sign during the offseason, including goalie Jordan Binnington, defenseman Joel Edmundson and forward Oskar Sundqvist, the Blues didn’t have much money left under the salary cap to make any kind of substantial offer to Maroon.
They have $2.7 million of cap room remaining — and that’s with restricted free agent Ivan Barbashev still unsigned. Even if they sign Barbashev, the Blues would like to have a bit of cushion left under the cap to replace injured players over the course of the 2019-20 season.
Armstrong said Saturday that the Blues are still working toward getting Barbashev signed, but there’s nothing done yet.
As for now, Maroon is the only player who appeared in the playoffs during the Blues’ Cup run to sign elsewhere.
In Tampa Bay, he joins one of the powerhouses of the Eastern Conference and a leading contender for the Stanley Cup this coming season. As such, Maroon is reunited with Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who years ago coached Maroon in junior hockey with the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League.
“He’s one of my all-time favorites,” Cooper told the Post-Dispatch prior to a Lightning-Blues regular-season game Feb. 7 in Tampa. “He just has one of those personalities, like when we were in junior, he’d light up the room. He was a fun guy to be around.
“And just watching him turn into a man — that’s some of the most gratifying things you get as a coach, watching that development. I don’t cheer much harder for a guy than I do Pat Maroon, to see him make it all the way to the NHL, and I’m so happy for him.”
Cooper hopes Maroon, 31, brings the same grit and physicality to the Lightning that he displayed in St. Louis. After an extremely slow start, Maroon was a strong role player down the stretch — especially after being placed on a line with Tyler Bozak and Robert Thomas.
He was willing to drop the gloves for his teammates, and although far from a fast skater, he was a presence in front of the net and behind it — doing the dirty work to set up plays.
He finished with 10 goals, 18 assists and was minus-3 in the regular season, and had three goals, four assists and was minus-3 in the playoffs.
“We’re very pleased to add Pat to our organization today,” Tampa general manager Julien BriseBois said. “He brings size and physicality to our group as well as significant playoff experience. We expect Pat to be a great addition to the roster.”