ALSO ON SLAM!
Saturday, July 15, 2000
Flames give up on St. Louis
Paper Boy sent packing
The Calgary Flames have cancelled the Paper Boy.
Martin St. Louis, the diminutive forward who Flames scouts dubbed the Paper Boy when they signed him a couple of years ago, had his contract bought out by the Flames and is now an unrestricted free agent.
"This guy looks like the Paper Boy -- but he's a great player," said Flames scouts when they signed St. Louis as a free agent in 1998.
But the 5-ft. 7-in. forward struggled to duplicate his minor-league scoring success at the NHL level.
St. Louis was upset at the move, which he called just another example of a team giving up on his size, rather than his heart.
"Of course this is about my size -- it always is," said St. Louis.
At every level since he began playing the game, St. Louis has had to overcome the doubters. No matter what numbers he put up on the scoreboard, it was the measuring stick that held him back.
But scoring in the minors is one thing. The NHL level represents a quantum leap that some players can never make.
In his two previous call-ups, St. Louis had not impressed. But again, he wasn't a guy who was always used properly. Playmakers need to play with other skilled players.
But it was also about his production.
He had just three goals and 18 points in 56 games in Calgary last season, his rookie NHL campaign where he was used primarily in a defensive role.
But St. Louis was left unprotected in the expansion draft earlier this summer after the club picked up a $550,000 option on his contract.
After not getting selected, St. Louis thought he was about to get a chance to prove himself to new Flames GM Craig Button and the new coaching staff.
He was preparing for his wedding this month when his agent informed him he'd been bought out -- a process by which the team paid one-third of his contract and relinquished his playing rights.
"They bought me out -- I couldn't believe it," said St. Louis, 25.
"I didn't even talk to them. I guess they thought I was going to get picked up and then I didn't.
"Now I have to find a contract.
"It's crap. I came in early this summer back to Calgary, did some promotions for the ticket campaign, and then they picked up my option and now this?
"I thought I was coming around at the end of last year. I was playing better, was more creative.
"I thought I was in their plans."
But Calgary's plans include the addition this season of two or three highly touted young prospects.
And without proving he could duplicate his point-a-game scoring in the AHL in Calgary, the team was likely making room for Rico Fata, Daniel Tkaczuk, Sergei Varlamov and Oleg Saprykin, among others, to earn roster spots.
St. Louis said he's entertaining contract offers from a couple of teams.
"Maybe it will be good for me looking at a new organization.
"I'll be fine.
"Of course, I'm still battling the size problem. Last year, I missed two games with a headache from taking a lot of hits. My size wasn't a factor.
"But what can I do? I'm used to dealing with it.
"I'm not going to pout -- I'm going to go out and get a contract and hopefully prove to them they made a mistake."
In Calgary, St. Louis was finally a victim of the numbers game, both his size and his scoring. That's the unfortunate reality for small forwards.
But it's also true, the Paper Boy did not deliver in Calgary in time.