Vladimir Tarasenko’s brilliant run is a big reason why the St. Louis Blues are currently on a six-game winning streak, even with the injuries and maladies gnawing at this team. It’s understandable for Blues fans to picture years of Tarasenko running roughshod over helpless defenses, but there’s at least one hurdle to clear: his next contract.
The red-hot 22-year-old is in the last year of his entry-level deal and could very well send his value through the roof if his blazing beginning is a sign of a breakthrough 2014-15.
Even so, the Blues don’t seem too worried about riding his contract year out, as ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports.
“We reached out in September to see if there was any interest in getting things going,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said on Tuesday. “He said he wanted to wait until the season was over and I said, ‘No problem. After the year we can discuss it then.’ I’m very comfortable with the situation. He’ll be a restricted free agent and I’m sure we’ll get something done when he’s ready to talk.”
Tarasenko’s agent Mike Liut backed that up to LeBrun, as well.
Sensible for both sides
Even as an RFA who will probably slow down at least a little bit – few players can rattle off multiple scoring streaks like these, especially tipping toward goals – Tarasenko faces a chance to establish himself as absolutely one of the Blues’ top scorers. It makes sense for him to ride this out (and fire away, as he’s put a stunning 52 shots on goal in 12 games).
Beyond not signing him during a hot streak, it’s easy to understand the Blues’ patience, as well.
Armstrong drew some heat for playing hardball with top players over the years, yet when you ponder the St. Louis salary structure, the Blues are setup remarkably well for the future thanks to a value-heavy roster.
How much can Tarasenko really ask for as an RFA when Ryan Johansen didn’t get that huge of a deal in Columbus and fellow rising Blue Jaden Schwartz is only drawing $2.35 million per year? That line of thought only strengthens when you consider that many of the team’s leading players aren’t making much (example: T.J. Oshie’s cap hit is a little less than $4.2 million).
The biggest winners might just be Blues fans, then. The team and player benefit from the natural drive that comes with earning that next deal, and Tarasenko may very well jump a few rungs on the NHL ladder in the process.