The St. Louis Blues are one of the rare contending teams that have zero contracts with an average annual value (AAV) above $8 million. However, that will change in the 2023-24 season when Robert Thomas’ new deal kicks in with an AAV of $8.125 million. With all of this said, the Blues have some contracts of great value coming into this season.
4. Ivan Barbashev, Center
$2.25 million AAV through the 2022-23 season
The 2021-22 season was a breakout for Ivan Barbashev. After five seasons of quality bottom-six play, he scored like a top-six forward last season. He got more ice-time than ever before and it paid off in more ways than one. Even after his running mate Oskar Sundqvist was shipped off to the Detroit Red Wings, he continued to score big goals.
Although last season could end up being a one-off for him, the Blues will have him for just $2.25 million this season. The value of Barbashev’s overall game makes his scoring numbers matter less, as he plays a valuable role in nearly every facet of the game, making his salary cap hit look even better for 2022-23.
There is no doubt that Barbshev will be under the microscope this season. He scored 60 points in 2021-22 which more than doubled his previous career high of 26 points. He’s expected to play on the third-line alongside Brayden Schenn and a mystery winger that will be decided after training camp and preseason play. He’s a fit on any line with the Blues’ roster construction, as he plays the style that head coach Craig Berube wants from his forwards.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, Right Wing
$7.5 million AAV through the 2022-23 season
Before the 2021-22 season, Vladimir Tarasenko’s contract would have been considered a waste or poor use of cap space. He proved the doubters wrong when he returned to prominence last season. Staying healthy was the top priority for him going into 2021-22, as he played only 34 of 138 possible games in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He found consistency again last season playing with an elite passer like Robert Thomas.
I believe that Tarasenko became a more complete player than ever before last season, as he set two career highs with 48 assists and 82 points. The most important takeaway is that the Blues’ offensive firepower in 2021-22 was the most they’ve had in decades. Tarasenko is a major part of the offensive attack and when healthy, he is more valuable than $7.5 million. The 2022-23 season will be a major season for him as he will look to receive the second big contract of his career in free agency.
2. Justin Faulk, Defenseman
$6.5 million AAV through the 2026-27 season
While it took time for Justin Faulk to adjust to life in St. Louis, he has become a defensive leader for the Blues over the last two seasons. He was used as an offensive defenseman in his eight seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, but that has changed in the last three seasons with the Blues.
Faulk is the most complete defenseman on the roster, which is something that they needed with the departure of Alex Pietrangelo. They expected to get that from Colton Parayko, but instead, Faulk has emerged as the leader in that respect. Last season, he had 16 goals and 47 points, both of which led Blues defensemen. His cap hit of $6.5 million is great value for the team, but I’m not saying it’s a steal. I’m saying that this is a perfect contract for both sides and as a result, the Blues will have a horse on the backend for at least five more seasons.
The Faulk trade has proven to be another stroke of brilliance from general manager Doug Armstrong, as he has continued the model of making trades to acquire major talent rather than spending in free agency. This is the right way to build a roster for a middle-market franchise, and the Blues are one of the best at doing it.
1. Pavel Buchnevich, Right Wing
$5.8 million AAV through the 2024-25 season
Another fantastic trade for Armstrong was acquiring Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers for Sammy Blais and a second-round pick. After the trade, the Blues gave him a contract extension for four years with a cap hit of $5.8 million. Both the trade and contract have already paid major dividends for the Blues. The Rangers lost this trade, but it’s easy to understand why they made the move.
As for the Blues’ side of things, acquiring a talent like Buchnevich entering his prime was too hard to pass up. He reached his full potential with 76 points in 73 games last season, becoming the first Blues forward to score 30 goals (other than Tarasenko) since Alexander Steen in 2013-14. He has a lot of value on this Blues roster with the ability to play in any situation. He played on both the power play and penalty kill last season and is one of the team’s most reliable defensive forwards.
All four of these contracts represent versatility and veteran leadership for the Blues. I could have included Torey Krug or Ryan O’Reilly on this list, but I found Faulk and Tarasenko to be a bit more important. Salary cap space is as important as it has ever been, and that is why the Blues moved quickly to lock up Thomas and Jordan Kyrou. As long as the salary cap jumps up over $5 million over the next few years, the Blues will be in a safe spot.
I have been covering sports for nearly a decade. I started with FanSided as a Baseball Contributor. Now I am writing about the NHL and the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers. I grew up in Central Illinois as a huge fan of every sport. Finally, I do various podcasting across all major platforms.