The St. Louis Blues were a dynamic defensive team for Coach Ken Hitchcock last season. Their offense? Less than dynamic, finishing 21st in the NHL with 206 goals.
That's why Vladimir Tarasenko's decision for next season was so highly anticipated. Drafted 16th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, the 20 year old notched 47 points in 54 games this season in the KHL and scored 31 points in 20 world junior championship games between 2009-11.
His decision? Picking the Blues over the KHL, and coming over to the NHL beginning next season. From STLToday.com and Jeremy Rutherford, talking with Blues GM Doug Armstrong:
"I was just sort of tossing and turning the rest of the night in anticipation of talking to (Tarasenko) and moving ahead," Armstrong said. "We spoke and it was 'Congratulations, we're excited to have you, I know it was a difficult decision.' I just wanted to let him know how happy we were to have him. He said he was very excited to be here."
… Tarasenko was left off Russia's World Championship roster, but he did have a lucrative offer to return to the KHL. It's not known how much he was offered to stay, but sources say the Russian offer dwarfs the maximum deal the Blues are able to provide under the current collective-bargaining agreement. The base salary for a 2010 draft pick is $900,000, but can be increased with some performance bonuses.
"He certainly had a contract (offer) in value that outshot what he could sign as an entry-level contract in the NHL, so I think it's a testament to the process," Armstrong said.
Keep in mind the contract isn't signed yet, as NHL rules state he can't ink the deal until July 1. Tarasenko has informed the KHL he's headed to North America, but there are still some details left undecided, Armstrong said; Andy Strickland of True Hockey had a breakdown of the Blues' performance bonus headaches with Tarasenko.
No one knows what this young star will turn out to be in the NHL — for every dynamic Russian star there's a Zherdev. But it's a significant boost for the Blues on the right wing. For the KHL … well, they still have Evgeny Kuznetsov choosing Russia over North America. And Brett Ledba might play for Barys Astana. That too.