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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Decade Of Vladimir

It was hard for me to imagine what I would be doing at age 30 when I was 23. Heck, it was hard for me to say that when I was 29. Vladimir Tarasenko doesn't have to guess what he'll be doing at age 30 because it will be under the Blues' logo unless something dramatic changes in St. Louis. As you're probably aware, one of the NHL's best restricted free agents is off the market as the 23 year-old Tarasenko signed an eight-year, $60 million deal today with the Blues. For one of this year's best snipers, it seems as though the Blues got a heck of a deal in securing a decade of Tarasenko highlights.

It's hard to imagine that Tarasenko would regress in his development in any way after having a monster season this year. He was thirty points better than last season as he posted 37 goals and 36 assists in helping the Blues become one of the dominant teams in the Central Division. Having watched him play this season, there was an excitement whenever he touched the puck in the same way that some felt about Ovechkin in his first few seasons. it will be a question as to whether or not he can continue to get fans out of their seats at age 31, so it has to be asked: did the Blues overspend to keep Tarasenko?

According to GM Doug Armstrong, the Blues aren't regretting handing out the richest contract in team history. "We saw, I think, just the tip of the iceberg of what Vladi can do in this league last year — highlight-reel goals in New York and against Minnesota in the playoffs," Armstrong told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "At such a young age, to show those skills, really made this a priority for us to see if we could work with him to get him to sign a long-term extension."

The Blues will be paying him like he's one of the NHL's elite goal scorers as well. The terms of the deal see Tarasenko receive $8 million in 2015-16, $8 million in '16-17, $7 million in '17-18, $7 million in '18-19, $9.5 million in '19-20, $5.5 million in '20-21, $9.5 million in '21-22 and $5.5 million in '22-23. Those tow years of $9.5 million will be the largest annual payment to a player ever - more than Gretzky, more than Hull, more than MacInnis, and more than Pronger.

While no one is going to say that Tarasenko wasn't the Blues' best player this past season, you have to wonder if this high-money deal was prompted by the threat of the KHL dropping a lottery-style contract on Tarasenko similar to what happened to Nashville with Alexander Radulov. With Tarasenko back in Russia for his wedding, I can imagine that Armstrong may have felt a little pressure to sign his sniper before the KHL came calling. Being that there's no formal agreement between the KHL and NHL at this time, restricted free agents are simply free agents to KHL teams, so the threat was somewhat real.

While Tarasenko and agent Mike Liut never brought up the KHL angle, being that close to the hornet's nest may have prompted Armstrong to act. After all, Tarasenko got his start with Novosibirsk Sibir before moving to SKA St. Petersburg before making the jump to St. Louis. However, it seemed that Liut and Tarasenko never once considered the KHL as an option as it was never mentioned in Armstrong's presence.

With St. Louis having control over Tarasenko for the next four seasons, they essentially bought four seasons of unrestricted free agency from Tarasenko for $30 million. Armstrong said that Liut came to him with an average annual salary demand, and that Armstrong asked for maximum term to make the numbers work. In the end, both sides seem pretty happy with the deal and that's what matters most. Of course, if Tarasenko scores fifty goals in three or four seasons and St. Louis wins a Stanley Cup or two in the next eight seasons, everyone will look back and call Armstrong a genius. There's a possibility that this happens with how Armstrong has structured the Blues.

The only thing that may prevent the Blues from reaching their ultimate goal is the salary cap. With a cap hit of $7.5 million, it will be about how well the Blues can manage the salary cap in putting as much talent around Tarasenko as possible.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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