Former first-round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers, onetime trade bait for Mike Comrie and later a 'sweetener' in the deal for Chris Pronger, defenseman Jeff Woywitka's time with the St. Louis Blues is over. Signed to a two-year deal worth $1.3 million a year, Woywitka joins the Dallas Stars blueline.
And while the Stars hope that Woywitka can further improve his game and become the puck-rushing defenseman that he was projected to be as an 18-year-old draftee, nothing he did in St. Louis points to any reason to believe that he will. His time in the Bluenote will be remembered as being fairly unmemorable; a defenseman who made the team mainly because of a dearth of bonafide NHL defenders and a status that meant he couldn't be sent to the minors without passing through waivers. A solid if unremarkable player, Woywitka has seen his evaluation fall from top-pairing offensive defenseman prospect to centerpiece of a trade for a major player to supposed upside player in a trade for another major player to restricted free agent who was not given a qualifying offer by his team.
Whether or not he gets his career started back in a positive direction in Dallas or not, Woywitka will forever be linked to one of the worst transactions in Blues history. In 2005, under pressure from the salary cap and the team's owners, the soon-to-be-former-owners Bill and Money Laurie, general manager Larry Pleau traded all-world defenseman and probable Hall of Famer Chris Pronger to Edmonton for Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka and Doug Lynch, all three defensemen.
Lynch was not re-signed by the Blues when his contract expired in 2007. He played the last two seasons in Austria having never pulled on an NHL game jersey.
Woywitka leaves Mound City having participated in 152 NHL and Blues games over parts of four seasons, compiling six goals and 29 assists in that time.
Brewer remains on the roster, the captain of the team and recipient of a four-year contract extention in 2007. He also happens to be known by fans as The Robot and is often called into question for his play by the same fans. In addition, rumors abound in St. Louis that Brewer, who missed 54 regular season and four postseason games last season and who endured two back surgeries since January, might not be ready to play this season.
Brewer, regardless of his playing status this year, has been less than Pronger-esque in his four years in St. Louis. His selection as team captain caught most fans by surprise and he has done little to change that surprise since it occurred. While only the most deluded fans believed the marketing hype that the former All-Star and Olympian would step right into the hole on defense created by the loss of Pronger, he still managed to underperform most fans' expectations.
He has played 219 games in St. Louis over four seasons (two seasons of 82 and 77 games played bookended by two injury-riddled seasons), scoring 14 goals and 52 assists in that time. He has also put up a cumulative minus-59.
Pronger, in his time away from St. Louis, has played for Edmonton (made the Stanley Cup finals), Anaheim (won a Stanley Cup) and has now moved on to Philadelphia, signing a seven-year contract with the Flyers just yesterday. In that time he has played in 300 regular season games (and 62 playoff games), scoring 48 goals and 158 assists (and 12 goals and 39 assists in the playoffs). He is a cumulative plus-28 in that time (though, admittedly most of those came in one season).
While the Blues' hockey operations staff may not have had a lot of leverage in forging that deal, there is no doubt that better could have been negotiated. Just one year later, in yet another poor-leverage situation due to Pronger's wife demanding a trade out of Edmonton, the Oilers turned him over to the Ducks in exchange for Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, first round selections in 2007 and 2008 and another conditional second round selection.
And so, after saying goodbye to Doug Lynch two years ago and wondering now if we'll actually see Eric Brewer back in the Note this year, we must also say a final goodbye to Jeff Woywitka. God speed, No. 29. We wish we'd never met you.