Blues re-sign captain Drake, pick up McKee

Updated: July 1, 2006, 11:44 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Veteran defenseman Jay McKee agreed to terms on a four-year, $16 million contract with the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

McKee's agent Pat Morris told The Associated Press that the overall terms of the deal were far superior to the contract the Buffalo Sabres, his client's former team, offered before allowing McKee to become an unrestricted free agent.

Morris added that McKee impressed the Blues new management, headed by team president John Davidson. Davidson was hired Friday after the sale of the Blues to a group led by Dave Checketts was completed.

"The organization is excited to add a quality defenseman and excellent leader in Jay McKee," Davidson said. "He was very instrumental in Buffalo's playoff run last season."

McKee, a 10-year veteran, had been Buffalo's senior player. He was coming off a strong season in which he helped the Sabres win a franchise-best, 52 regular-season games and clinch their first playoff berth since 2001. McKee then played a big role in Buffalo's extended postseason run, which ended with a Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals to eventual Stanley Cup champion Carolina.

McKee had 16 points, including a career high-matching five goals, and led the NHL with 241 blocked shots in 75 regular season games. In the playoffs, he had a career-high two goals and three assists and led the team with 64 blocked shots in 17 games, but missed Buffalo's finale because of a serious leg infection.

He joins a Blues franchise that is in transition but features an emerging core of defensemen, including Erik Brewer and Erik Johnson, the first player chosen in the NHL draft last weekend.

"As Jay said, it'll be the last time the Blues pick first overall," Morris said. "He's ready to get at it."

McKee was spending the weekend vacationing in Las Vegas while hitting the jackpot with the Blues. The new deal represents a considerable raise from McKee's $1.6 million salary last season.

Morris said McKee, the Sabres' first-round pick in the 1995 draft, enjoyed his time in Buffalo but was excited to have a new opportunity in St. Louis.

The loss represents a blow to the Sabres defense, which stands to lose another regular blue-liner, Teppo Numminen, who also became an unrestricted free agent Saturday after completing his one-year contract.

The Sabres attempted to re-sign McKee before the start of free agency, but he rejected the offer.

St. Louis also re-signed captain Dallas Drake to a multiyear deal.

The 37-year-old forward has played in 884 NHL games during a 13-year career. He was chosen as captain this season when he played 62 games and recorded two goals and 24 assists.

"I have admired the way Dallas handles himself on and off the ice over his career and thrilled to have him back leading our team," Davidson said. "He is a character guy and gives everything he has night after night."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press