The St. Louis Blues are not fully in offseason mode with the 2019-20 season in the balance. However, they are still getting a jump on some moves for the future.
The news of Perunovich getting a contract got lost in the shuffle, given the slightly worrying news that broadcaster John Kelly tested positive for covid-19. Fortunately, he is doing well, so it does not feel selfish to switch the focus back to the ice and the future of the team.
Perunovich has shown a lot of potential in the college ranks at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He has set several freshman records, been named to several high-profile post-season lists and just the small matter of winning two national championships as well.
The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs were clicking and may have had a shot at winning a third championship, but the pandemic put a halt to that. No doubt Perunovich will be disappointed to be robbed of that opportunity.
Nevertheless, signing your first professional contract has to be more than just a little consolation. On March 27, the Blues and Perunovich agreed to a two-year, entry level contract.
Perunovich is currently 21, but since he will be 22 by the time the contract actually kicks in he could only sign a two-year deal, given the age restrictions in the CBA. His max salary will be $925,000 and that is only if he makes the NHL. His minor league salary will likely be lower.
The interesting thing about college players is when they sign. Originally, there was a little confusion about why Perunovich had not signed with the Blues, since he was drafted in 2018. However, the reason is he could not.
Once you sign an entry-level contract, you forfeit your collegiate eligibility per NCAA rules. So, regardless of where he plays in 2020-21, Perunovich will be a professional player and his time with the Bulldogs is over.
The only remaining question is whether the Blues had to do this or Perunovich simply wanted to turn pro. At the end of a video interview with Kelly and Cris Kerber, Kerber made it sound like Perunovich would have been a free agent if the Blues did not make this deal. However, an article on Vegas prospects claims teams have a four-year window to sign college.
Perhaps Perunovich’s age shortened that window? Or perhaps Kerber misspoke.
Perunovich’s professional future has a lot to do with his progression, but also what the Blues do whenever their NHL offseason comes. No matter what happens with the Blues free agents, it feels unlikely that he would make the NHL next season.
Still, Perunovich is now a two-time finalist for the Hobey Baker award and was named College Hockey News Player of the Year. The 2019 winner of that honor was Cale Makar, who is now lighting up things for the Colorado Avalanche.
Time will tell. It is good to have this piece of business taken care of and Perunovich can focus on getting stronger for the pro ranks. If he’s as good as he was in college, we will see him in the note sooner rather than later.