Deal is what's best for Bell

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 PM ET

In the end, Brendan Bell managed to get what he really wanted.

A solid shot at long-term NHL employment.

Rebuffed in his attempts to land the one-way contract that would have all but ensured he plays in the NHL next season, Bell yesterday agreed to a one-year, two-way deal with the Blues that will earn him $700,000 (all terms US) if he sticks with the big club and $105,000 if he winds up with their AHL farm team, the Peoria Rivermen.

Bell, who was working off a $500,000 salary when he had six goals and 15 assists in 53 games with the Senators last season, was less interested in dollars than he was in a deal making sense for his future. He turned down a chance to make close to $1 million in Russia’s KHL for a chance to get more than his foot inside the door to the NHL.

“I’m excited to be going to St. Louis,” said Bell, a former 67’s defenceman who has played just 101 NHL games since the Maple Leafs made him a third-round pick in the 2001 draft. “I think it’s a really good opportunity with a good young team. They had a good run toward the end of last season and should be a playoff contender next season.

"They were lacking another defenceman to bring some offence. It should be a pretty good fit.”

Bell might have received a similar offer from the Senators had the two sides ever had a serious discussion about money. But even though Ottawa is his hometown, he would have been inclined to follow the enticement of Blues coach Andy Murray, assistant coach (and another former 67’s defenceman) Brad Shaw, GM Larry Pleau, VP of hockey operations Al MacInnis and St. Louis centre Jay McClement, Bell’s longtime friend.

Tough to blame him.

The Senators have spent the last two seasons drafting defencemen they figure will soon be skating in the NHL. The St. Louis blue-line corps is headed by Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson, Barret Jackman and, quite likely, rookie Alex Pietrangelo. After that, the competition for jobs will be between the likes of Carlo Colaiacovo (Bell’s former roommate with the St. John’s Maple Leafs), Roman Polak, Mike Weaver and Tyson Strachan.

“I’m hemmed and hawed over this one pretty good,” Bell, 26, said of the decision. “It was definitely my first choice in the NHL. The only thing I debated was whether to leave money on the table overseas.

“They’re trying to build from within rather than making a whole bunch of big- name signings. This is a good opportunity.”


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