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With new contract, Nick Leddy has bigger fish to fry with Blues

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Philadelphia Flyers vs St. Louis Blues

Blues defenseman Nick Leddy carries the puck up ice in the third period of a game against the Flyers at Enterprise Center on Thursday, March 24, 2022. 

This time of year, Nick Leddy spends as much time as possible on one of those 10,000 lakes in his home state of Minnesota.

“I live on a lake back home in Minnesota,” he said. “It’s probably 25 minutes southwest of the Twin Cities.

“The lake has bass, walleye, northern (pike), blue gill, crappie. It basically has most of them. Personally I’ll do that. I just like to be out on the boat on the lake for sure.”

After signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Blues on Wednesday, Leddy has enough money for new fishing equipment. A new boat. Heck, he might have enough money to buy the entire lake.

Besides the increased spending power, the new contract is a huge vote of confidence from the Blues that he can help their defense in a top four role. He played well enough after last year’s trade deadline deal with Detroit that the team made a more long-term commitment to the veteran defenseman.

“Huge for the confidence,” Leddy said. “I think the biggest thing is I’m really excited to have a full season with the guys and actually a few more years.”

At age 31, Leddy remains in his prime, and the Blues obviously hope that will be the case throughout the life of the contract.

“This is an indication that in the next three or four years, we’re going to try and continue to build and stay as competitive as possible,” general manager Doug Armstrong said after the signing on Wednesday.

“We expected him to come in here (and play well) just based on his history. He was a 22-minute player in the playoffs with a very good (New York) Islanders team. The Islanders moved him along for cap reasons, and he went to an organization that was at a different (stage).”

That would be Detroit, where the Red Wings were in full rebuild mode last season before Leddy was shipped to St. Louis on March 21 at the trade deadline.

The Blues were 15-4-1 with Leddy over the rest of the regular season, and went 5-4 with him in the lineup during the postseason. (He missed three playoff games due to injury.)

Even with that relatively small sample size, Leddy quickly realized that St. Louis was a good spot to be for a hockey player.

“Yeah for sure,” he said. “I think the comfort factor was there right away. Obviously I felt welcomed immediately, and knowing some of the guys really well, Brandon (Saad) and Justin (Faulk) right off the start, helped out exponentially.”

Leddy, in fact, is away from the lake to attend the wedding of Saad’s brother this weekend. Leddy and Saad were once teammates in Chicago.

And Faulk, a fellow Minnesotan, has been a summer workout partner in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for years.

“Yeah, we’ve had the same trainer for over 10 years now, and we’ve been working out together for five or six years,” Leddy said.

Although coach Craig Berube could have other ideas, the player he’ll probably spend the most time with on the ice figures to be Colton Parayko in what the Blues hope will be their shutdown pairing.

“I don’t know if that’s my decision, but obviously playing with the big man, it’s awesome,” Leddy said. “He’s big, he skates well, he’s very skilled and overall just a smart hockey player. Playing with him just for that last stretch, I thought we had really good chemistry and it grew the more we played.”

Conventional wisdom says it should continue to grow this season, just like Faulk and Torey Krug were better last season in their second year together.

“You create chemistry over time and I think that’ll be a big thing moving forward,” Leddy said. “Always looking to keep building on and off the ice.”

The Blues have been looking for a top four defenseman basically since Jay Bouwmeester suffered a life-threatening cardiac episode Feb. 11, 2020, in Anaheim. For a while it looked like Marco Scandella was that guy, but his play has been uneven and he was slowed by injury as this past season wound down.

So Armstrong is trying again with Leddy. It’s not clear if Leddy was drawing interest from other teams as free agency approached.

“You know, at this point in my career, I know places that I feel I would like and the teams I would really like to be around,” he said. “Obviously, St. Louis is that team.

“You look up and down on this roster, you have a lot of skill on the ice and a lot of hard-working guys. Off the ice, a lot of great people. I think that’s a huge part of it as well.”

Perunovich, Walker sign

Defenseman Scott Perunovich and forward Nathan Walker have signed one-year contracts.

Perunovich’s contract is a $750,000 one-way deal forr the 2022-23 season. He had been a restricted free agent.

Walker’s contract is a one-year extension through the 2023-24 season. It’s a one-way deal worth $775,000. (He already was under contract for the 2022-23 campaign.)

The Blues also announced the signings of four forwards to one-year deals, ostensibly to help fill out the Springfield Thunderbirds roster in the American Hockey League.

But Josh Leivo, 29, has played 214 NHL regular-season games over nine seasons, including seven with Carolina last year.

Matthew Highmore, 26, has 137 games of NHL regular-season experience, including 46 with Vancouver last season when he had five goals and seven assists.

Anthony Angello, 26, has 31 games of NHL experience over three seasons with Pittsburgh.

Dylan McLaughlin, 27, has no NHL experience, playing for the Rockford IceHogs over the past four seasons.

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