The St. Louis Blues re-signed right wing Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko’s new deal is worth an annual cap hit of $7.5 million. The 23-year-old will earn $8 million per season in actual salary for 2015-16 and 2016-17, $7 million annually in 2017-18 and 2018-19, $9.5 million in 2019-20 and 2021-22 and $5.5 million in 2020-21 and 2022-23. He’s now the Blues highest-paid player.
After showing offensive potential in the first two years of his short NHL career, Tarasenko blossomed into a superstar last season, tallying 37 goals and 73 points in 77 games. He led the Blues in scoring and ranked among the league’s top scorers. He also proved to be just as lethal in the playoffs, potting six goals and seven points in six playoff games last season. His dazzling offensive skills earned him a spot on the NHL’s Second All-Star Team.
The only potential problem area is his injury history. He missed five games last season to a groin injury. In 2013-14, he missed 15 games to right-hand surgery, though it’s apparent that didn’t adversely affect his offensive skills. The more troubling injury is a concussion suffered during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, which sidelined him 10 games. Thus far, he’s hasn’t had further head trauma.
If Tarasenko can avoid serious injury over the course of this deal, it could prove a worthwhile long-term investment by the Blues. With his skills, he could remain among the league’s top scorers for several years. That $7.5 million annual cap hit will seem like a bargain as his peers garner bigger cap hits in the coming years.
A bigger problem for the Blues, however, will be finding the cap space to re-sign or replace Jaden Schwartz, David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Carl Gunnarsson and others due for free agency next summer. They now have over $51.8 invested in just 12 players for 2016-17. If the salary cap makes only another marginal increase, the Blues could feel the pinch next summer.