ST. LOUIS – Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be leaving St. Louis anytime soon.
The Blues and the star right winger agreed to an eight-year, $60 million contract ($7.5 annual average value). The eight-year term is the maximum length allowable under the NHL’s collective-bargaining agreement.
“I think it’s a great day in Blues’ history to get a player of Vladi’s caliber locked into the organization through the prime of his career,” Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said of the 23-year-old. “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.
“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. Those were the things that we talked about really since we started this a week before the draft, what was going to make him comfortable as far as term. I was quite comfortable that it was going to be a lot of money regardless. But getting the term, for us, was something that our ownership group believed in.”
Tarasenko’s contract, which will end weeks of anxiety among Blues fans, will make him the Blues’ highest-paid player beginning in 2015-16, ahead of Paul Stastny ($7 million AAV).
The breakdown of Tarasenko’s contract is as follows: He will make $8 million in 2015-16, $8 million in ’16-17, $7 million in ’17-18, $7 in ’18-19, $9.5 in ’19-20, $5.5 million in ’20-21, $9.5 million in ’21-22 and $5.5 million in ’22-23.
Armstrong said the Blues told Tarasenko and his agent, former Blues goalie Mike Liut, from the start of negotiations that he would be paid like a star. The GM said negotiations didn’t have the typical back-and-forth haggling that bog down many talks.
“It started out with a dollar figure and then we had to get some term for that money,” Armstrong said. “I think all players would love a lot of money and not much term. But we believed that if we were going to get into the stratosphere of dollars on an annual value, then we had to get some unrestricted free-agency years.”
Armstrong was referencing that fact that the Blues already controlled the rights of Tarasenko until he is 27. So by him agreeing to an eight-year contract, the Blues have “bought” four more years in which he would have been unrestricted.
Tarasenko, who is in Russia, will be available to the media in a conference call at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
He did tweet, however, on Tuesday: “Thank you for your trust. Me, my wife and my family proud to stay in St. Louis! happy to be with you and carry a note on my chest. Let’s bring the cup to St. Louis!”
Armstrong did speak to Tarasenko shortly before the deal was announced.
“He’s really excited to be a Blue,” Armstrong said. “His main focus in our conversations were, ‘What are we going to do to win a Stanley Cup?’ He never broached the economics with me. He just wanted the assurance that we were going to continue to push and prod and do what we had to do to get better.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed from Vlad since he’s been here is his thirst to win outweighs everything else. He’s a competitor. Obviously we know he does love to score goals, but he does think of the team above that. I think it’s a testament to why he plays the game.”
Tarasenko, who was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, has quickly become one of the league’s elite goal scorers. Last season, he finished tied for No. 5 last season with a career-high 37 goals and ranked No. 10 in points with 73.
In his three-year career, which included the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Tarasenko has 66 goals and 135 points in 179 regular-season games. He has 10 goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games.
“He’s just scratching the surface of how good he can be,” Armstrong said.