Vladimir Tarasenko signs 8-year deal, Blues get a superstar steal

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FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2014, file photo, St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko, of Russia, celebrates after scoring during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in St. Louis. The 23-year-old St. Louis Blues forward is among the top goal-scorers in the NHL. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Tarasenko blossoming in 2nd full season with Blues

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2014, file photo, St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko, of Russia, celebrates after scoring during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators in St. Louis. The 23-year-old St. Louis Blues forward is among the top goal-scorers in the NHL. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Vladimir Tarasenko’s newly signed 8-year, $60-million contract is a blockbuster contract. But unlike most blockbusters, its director had a firm handle on the budget. 

GM Doug Armstrong made the restricted free agent the team’s priority, and paid him as such: Tarasenko’s $7.5 million cap hit makes the 23-year-old the highest paid member of the Blues, eclipsing Paul Stastny’s free-agent bonanza ($7 million) and Alex Pietrangelo’s own second-contract jackpot ($6.5 million).

According to Andy Strickland, the Tarasenko deal breaks down as follows, starting in 2015-16 through 2022-23: $8 million in the first two years, $7 million in the next two, $9.5 million, then $5.5 million, then $9.5 million and then $5 million. Fun!

(Interesting dips around the 2021-22 season, after which the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. He makes $5.5 million the year before the next lockout and then $9.5 million during the lockout!)

From the Blues:

Tarasenko, 23, had a breakout season in 2014-15, sharing 10th in the NHL overall with 73 points, fifth with 37 goals and seventh with a +27 rating. He became the youngest Blue to record a 30-goal season since Brendan Shanahan (1991-92) and the first Blue overall to log 73 total points since Pavol Demitra in 2002-03.

In the 2015 postseason, Tarasenko tied for the overall League lead in goals (six) and shared third in overall points (seven) through the first round. In Game 2 against Minnesota, he became the first Blue to record a postseason hat-trick since 2004. 

Originally drafted by the Blues in the first round (16th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Tarasenko has accumulated 135 points (66 goals, 69 assists) in 179 career regular season games across three seasons with the club.

Tara-swanko? Tara-BreakTheBank-o? Really, choose your pun. 

Oh, and he was just coming back from his honeymoon, too. Decent summer for Vlad. 

This is as no-brainer as they come, of course. Tarasenko has proven to be a dynamic offensive player and a box office draw: The “Tarasenko Watch” was on social media every time he did something spectacular in a game. He's a star in an era that requires them to win Stanley Cups. And he achieved these offensive highs playing in a Ken Hitchcock system that ... well, doesn't always encourage them. 

The contract gives the Blues about $2.4 million in cap space for next season. They need a few more bodies, but not many.

The real intrigue will be in Summer 2016, when David Backes goes UFA; he makes $4.5 million against the cap, which is $1.3 million less than Alex Steen and $2.5 million less than Stastny. What do you do there? And does cap flexibility inevitably come back to trading Kevin Shattenkirk? 

There’s always a domino effect when these contracts are signed. But the bottom line for the Blues and their fans: They just locked up a 23-year-old star through 2023. And you can’t say this about many players making $7.5 million against the cap, but Tarasenko’s going to make this look like a steal for the Blues by contract’s end.  

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