The Blues have replaced their resident tough guy.
A week after trading Ryan Reaves, the club signed Chris Thorburn on the opening day of the NHL's free-agency period Saturday. The two sides have agreed to a two-year, $1.8 million contract ($900,000 AAV), according to a league source.
Thorburn, 34, is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds and will be penciled into Reaves' spot on the right wing on the fourth line. He had three goals and one assist in 64 games with the Winnipeg Jets last year to go along with 95 penalty minutes (including 13 fighting majors) last season.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that the club was thinking long and hard about whether it needed an energy-enforcer on the roster.
“I talked to a lot of managers and they haven’t had (that element) for a number of years, but I’m not sure we want to go cold turkey after having maybe the best one in the business (Reaves) for a number of years,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to talk to different people, but it’s going to have to come at a price range that allows growth for other players.”
Thorburn's contract comes in at $225,000 shy of Reaves, who was in the final year of a four-year deal making $1.125 million annually.
The Blues will be Thorburn's third team in about 10 days. He had spent the last six seasons in Winnipeg, but the Jets dealt him to Vegas in the expansion draft in order to prevent the Golden Knights from selecting defenseman Toby Enstrom.
But Thorburn's three-year contract, with a $1.2 million AAV, expired on Friday and he became an unrestricted free agent. The Blues were believed to be interested in Ottawa enforcer Chris Neil, as well as Thorburn, and got a deal done with the latter.
Thorburn has played 750 games in his NHL career, in which he has posted 52 goals and 127 points to go along with 908 career PIMs.
In addition to Thorburn, the Blues also announced Saturday that they've re-signed restricted free-agent forward Oskar Sundqvist to a one-year contract worth $650,000. The team acquired Sundqvist in the recent trade with Pittsburgh involving Reaves.
Also, the Blues have added right winger Beau Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent. The 25-year-old, too, has signed a one-year deal worth $650,000. He spent four seasons in Pittsburgh before playing in New Jersey last season, when he had a career-high eight goals and 19 points in 65 games.
The signings of Sundqvist and Bennett are both one-way deals. Along with Thorburn, that leaves the Blues $8.6 million under the $75 million salary-cap with restricted free-agent defenseman Colton Parayko still to sign. He will likely come in between $5-6 million per season, and the Blues, according to Armstrong, want to stay about five to six percent under the $75 million cap in case of injuries.