Spartans Aggressive In Offseason

After two years of near-misses at Cup glory, the St. Louis Spartans decided on a big shake up of the roster.
by Sean Gallagher | November 13, 2011, 10:19 PM ET

"I really liked the look of our roster - we kept guys around for years and years here. Unfortunately, the recipe just wasn't good enough and we had to address certain holes in the lineup and send a wakeup call to the guys who are expected to get us to a shot at a championship."

Spartans GM Sean Gallagher spoke candidly about his team's drastic changes over the last two months - moves that were the boldest the team has made in years - to re-shape a talented young team that has fallen short in the postseason for years. The moves included big trades, big free agency signings and an overall reshuffling of the deck that Gallagher hopes changes the culture of his team.

"For starters, losing Evgeni Nabokov to the KICHL unexpectedly like we did really screwed us," said Gallagher, "He was our no-question starter for years, owns all of our goaltending records. We've been good to him all along, so we were pretty hurt that he wasn't that good to us in return. I think he'll realize he made a mistake pretty quickly."

To address the loss of Nabokov, Gallagher acted aggressively with only one goalie on his playing roster, acquiring Antti Niemi in a trade with one team and minor leaguer Mike McKenna in another, offering an unsuccessful but lucrative contract to restricted free agent Jonathan Quick, signing Alec Richards and J-S Berube to play with the St. Louis Rockets minor league affiliate and future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur as a backup to Niemi.

In all, the Blues kept Antero Niitymaki and added five more goalies to the roster. Surprisingly, that was not the end of Gallagher's goaltending moves as Niemi didn't even have time to look for a nice place in the suburbs before he was dealt to Brandon as part of a huge package to bring in just one man: Tim Thomas.

"We gave up a ton to Doug with the Wheaties to get Thomas," said Gallagher. "To be honest, he was, as always, an honest and reasonable negotiator. Everything he asked for, we had to agree was worthwhile and proportionate. He understood that acquiring Thomas was a big move for us, but he didn't treat us like we were desperate or stupid. Sometimes people in this league like to make a move and then take a shot at you in the media. I don't get that, but I'm glad Doug isn't one of those guys, because he got a huge haul off of us in this deal."

The Spartans sent Niemi to Brandon to become their goalie of the next few years, as well as young, but still veteran blueliner Carlo Colaiacovo, first rounder Jakub Kindl, several million dollars and a third round pick in exchange for the elder statesman Thomas.

The move in goal was the last signal to the rest of the SICHL that St. Louis expects to compete hard this year. On defense the roster was re-made as rookie Alex Pietrangelo has earned a top spot while summer acquisitions Brad Stuart and John Carlson join Jay Bouwmeester, Karlis Skrastins and either Jack Hillen or Roman Polak in the starting six for the Spartans.

Up front, the Spartans added Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Chris Kunitz to join fellow top-sixers Phil Kessel, Mike Richards and Andy McDonald. To bolster the checking and energy lines, Gallagher added Matt Cooke, Todd Marchant and Mike Grier to join T.J. Oshie, R.J. Umberger, Nikolai Zherdev and Mike Knuble.

"All I can do is try to give our coach the right tools," said Gallagher, "I feel like his toolbox is pretty full right now.

"Let's see what he can do."

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