The Blues signed defenseman Colton Parayko to a five-year, $27.5 million contract on Thursday, effectively finalizing the roster for next season while setting the core of the squad for years to come.
Parayko is signed through 2022, one year before the contract of forward Vladimir Tarasenko ends. Forward Jaden Schwartz and goalie Jake Allen are set through 2021, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, the team’s captain, and forward Brayden Schenn are set through 2020. It’s that young core of talent that the Blues will be built around as they go forward.
“We’re in a good spot now,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said by phone from Toronto after the agreement with Parayko was reached. “We have Schwartz signed for term and Tarasenko, and Alex and Jake Allen. Now we have Parayko. That’s a good nucleus to build around.”
“It’s a situation where we’ve been a very good team the past two years,” Parayko said. “Knowing the young group is only going to get better, it’s very exciting to be part of that. It really looks good for the foreseeable future.”
Beyond those youngsters – Pietrangelo is the oldest at 27 and four of them are 25 or younger — the Blues also have their veteran, more experienced, players in place. Forward Patrik Berglund is signed for five more years, Alexander Steen for four and Vladimir Sobotka for three. And in the under-25 crowd, you can add forward Robby Fabbri and defenseman Joel Edmundson, who will still be restricted free agents when their contracts run out after next season.
Parayko was the last piece of that puzzle, at least for the time being. He was a restricted free agent coming off an entry level contract and had filed for arbitration, so the Blues knew they would have him back for two seasons. They just didn’t know at what price.
The sides didn’t come to an agreement until Thursday morning, not long before the parties were to meet in Toronto for their arbitration hearing. The Blues had asked for a two-year deal at $3.4 and $3.6 million in the arbitration process, but were looking for something longer. A two-year deal would mean Parayko’s contract would run out the same time as Jay Bouwmeester’s, and one year after that Pietrangelo’s contract is up.
“Both sides were focused on a two-year deal or a longer deal,” Armstrong said. “Five years is a number they were comfortable with. Both sides believe he’s entering a defining area in his career. They didn’t want to go longer and we didn’t want to go shorter. Then it became trying to find an area where he was comfortable and the team could justify it.”
The two sides met Thursday morning — “We were close,” Parayko said — and reached a deal. They found that at an average annual value of $5.5 million, which makes him the fourth highest-paid player on the team behind Tarasenko, Pietrangelo and Steen. The price is slightly higher than the $5.3 million AAV that another top young defenseman, Jaccob Slavin, got from Carolina over seven years and a million over the $4.5 million AAV Shayne Gostisbehere got from Philadelphia in a six-year deal. Anaheim’s Cam Fowler signed an eight-year extension with an AAV of $6.5 million.
“There were a lot of factors, too many almost to sit down to list,” Parayko said as he prepared to fly home to Edmonton, Alberta. “We sat down for hours discussing different things. There were a lot of factors. The main thing is I wanted to play there and I’m looking forward to continuing. … I’m just happy that at the end of day I’ll be in St. Louis the next five years. I love being there. My goal is to play there as long as possible.”
“We view him as a nucleus, a cornerstone player,” Armstrong said. “He only has two years experience and 300 games is when guys settle in to a constant rhythm in that position. He’s still very young. He has a huge upside with his size, skating and shot. There are a lot of elements there. We’ll work with him and maximize every element for him to become top end player.”
With one of the team’s hardest shots, Parayko had nine goals and 24 assists as a rookie, finishing eighth in voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in one of the most competitive seasons for that award. He was +28 in plus-minus that season, the fifth-best mark in the league. In his second season, he had four goals and 31 assists.
Prior to last season, Parayko was chosen for Team North America, the 23-and-under team at the World Cup of Hockey, and after last season, he played for Canada at the world championships.
“It’s kind of funny,” he said. “(Alaska-Fairbanks) seems like a long way ago, but it happens so fast. I still remember playing in Alaska, I remember my first NHL game. Things do happen very quickly, but you get stuck in the storm and go with it.”
Parayko’s deal brings the Blues about $3 million under the salary cap. That’s a little closer than they’d like to be, but a number the Blues can live with.
“You’d like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” Armstrong said. “Now we view the cap as staying flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”
The only deal still to be worked out is with restricted free agent defenseman Petteri Lindhohm.