The Blues took swings at three free-agent centers and whiffed on each, but general manager Doug Armstrong believes striking out wasn’t as impactful as some fans are suggesting because the situation isn’t critical.
“It’s interesting because I said if we can improve in that center ice position, we would, but we’re going back with the same centers that got us second place in the West and fourth place in the West,” Armstrong said, referring to the team’s finish the past two seasons. “So it’s not like we’ve lost anyone and there’s a glaring hole there. This is the same group of centers that was there before, so to me it might be an over-exaggeration that ‘Geez, there’s a glaring hole there.’”

But undoubtedly, the Blues could have boosted their experience, speed or skill in the middle had they been able to land just one of their targets — Vincent Lecavalier, Stephen Weiss or Valtteri Filppula — who all turned down overtures from the club to sign elsewhere.

The Blues did sign centers Maxim Lapierre, Keith Aucoin and Alex Bolduc, along with right winger Mark Mancari. But while Lapierre will add a physical presence to the team’s bottom-six forwards, the other three are depth signings and none could be confused with the club’s sought-after play-making center.

On Friday, the Blues also traded defenseman Kris Russell to Calgary for a fifth-round draft pick in 2014.

“We had a plan,” Armstrong said. “We were going to see if we could execute that plan. We focused on a couple of guys who we thought could improve our team and they decided to go elsewhere.”

Following Lecavalier’s decision to join Philadelphia earlier this week, Weiss narrowed his choice to Detroit and the Blues before selecting the Red Wings, and Filppula listened to a local sales pitch, too, before picking Tampa Bay.

Weiss, a zippy center who has spent the last eight seasons in Florida, signed a five-year, $24.5 million contract ($4.9 million annual average value). Filppula, who struggled last season in Detroit but has skill, inked a five-year, $25 million deal.

Armstrong wouldn’t disclose the Blues’ offers but said the club made strong presentations in both terms and dollars.

“We were a little bit less (than Detroit and Tampa Bay), but not a lot,” he said. “We didn’t low-ball anybody ... we were certainly in the neighborhood that our offer was good enough if they wanted to be here.”

With both Weiss and Filppula, there might have been uncontrollable circumstances that the Blues couldn’t match.

Weiss played three seasons of junior hockey with the Plymouth (Mich). Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.

“It is neat to come back to a city where I played before and watched the Wings, and wondered about playing for the franchise one day,” he told Detroit reporters.