Paul Stastny is coming home.

On the opening day of National Hockey League free agency, the Blues signed arguably the top center available to a four-year, $28 million contract on Tuesday.

"I wanted to go somewhere I was comfortable with and somewhere I know the lay of the land a little bit," said Stastny, 28, who grew up in St. Louis and attended Chaminade Prep.

"I was in a good position. I had good teams interested in me. I think in the end, you almost have to take a step back, take all of the emotions out of it and try to realize what's best for me hockey-wise, not just next year, but two or three or four years down the road. My family — my fiancee and I — thought that going to St. Louis would probably be the best hockey decision for me."

The NHL's "courting" period began on June 25 and the Blues were among as many as 15 teams to express interest in Stastny. But it was not certain that he would leave Colorado, where he had been the first eight years of his career.

Matt Keator, Stastny's agent, and the Avalanche met several times in the days leading up to Tuesday's start of free agency, but it became apparent that he would be moving on. On Monday, Stastny drew up a short list that had St. Louis near the top.

"Colorado was great to deal with but we just could not match up on a deal," Keator told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday after the signing. "As we went through the UFA process and Paul looked beyond Colorado, the Blues became the best option.

"Paul took less money and years to sign with St. Louis because it is his hometown and the team is a (Stanley) Cup contender."

Stastny will be paid $6.5 million in 2014-15, $7 million in both '15-16 and '16-17 and $7.5 million in '17-18. He also received a no-trade clause. 

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said the club made Stastny it's top priority in free agency. He admitted that Dallas' trade with Ottawa early Tuesday for Jason Spezza, whom the Blues had been targeting, did make him a bit "nervous." But he didn't have to wait long before getting an answer from Stastny. 

"When the bell rung today, we had an idea what the parameters were (on a contract with Stastny)," Armstrong said. "Then you just tidy up the loose ends. He put it in a bow, and all of the sudden, you had a four-year, $28 million dollar deal there."

Stastny will become the third member of his family to play for the Blues. His father, Peter Stastny, finished his Hall of Fame career with the club in 1994-95, making them the fifth father-son combination in franchise history. His older brother, Yan Stastny, also was in the organization from (2007-2010).

Stastny kept them abreast of the process throughout.

"As my family, you always have insight," he said. "I was all ears during this process, I always listen to what they have to say. In the end it's my decision and (but) I think they're both excited. Family still lives in St. Louis. They think it's a good decision."   

Stastny gives the Blues an instant offensive upgrade at center. he scored 25 goals and registered 60 points in 71 games during the 2013-14 regular season, followed by five goals and 10 points in seven playoff games for the Avalanche.

"I think one of his greatest assets is his hockey IQ," Armstrong said. "We really think that he thinks the game strong ... I see a scenario where Paul plays with (Alexander) Steen and (David) Backes and that gives us quite a bit of strength on the sides with Backes. And then you have (Patrik) Berglund, (Vladimir) Sobotka and maybe (T.J.) Oshie as another line. I think our group of nine forwards is strong today than it was yesterday."

That group of nine would include Jaden Schwartz playing with Vladimir Tarasenko and Jori Lehtera, a former Blues draft pick who was re-signed by the club Tuesday to a two-year contract.

Armstrong said that he spoke to both Backes and Steen about the Blues being potentially forced into eclipsing their contracts when signing a player such as Stastny in free agency. Backes has two more years remaining in his contract at $4.5 million per season; Steen's three-year extension that pays him $5.8 per year will begin in 2014-15.

"I said, 'We're going to have to go substantially past what your average compensation is and both players — to their credit but not surprisingly — said 'We want to win ... you go do what you have to do to make us a better team," Armstrong said. "So with that knowledge, it was much easier to move forward."

The Blues believe they've enhanced their chances of winning with Tuesday's signing, and so does Stastny.

"I look at St. Louis and their window to win a Cup is now, and for the next seven or eight years, so I'm excited," he said.




Jeremy is a reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @jprutherford.

Jeremy Rutherford is the lead Blues beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.