St. Louis Blues Colton Parayko Contract Very Good, Not Great

St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55)Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55)Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues learned from the past and signed their best defenseman to a contract extension before he reached free agency. The deal the team worked out with Colton Parayko is very good, but not great.

The Blues clearly did not want history to repeat itself. Just an offseason removed from Alex Pietrangelo feeling slighted and seeking money and attention in Vegas, the Blues avoided the same fate with Parayko.

St. Louis did not even wait until there was a threat of him becoming a free agent. Parayko was not due to hit the market until the summer of 2022, but the Blues extended him with an eight-year contract with a cap hit of $6.5 million per season.

There are several reasons this is a very good contract.

Blues get great value on Parayko contract

Firstly, though the contract runs longer than the Pietrangelo contract, we might forget that it was not term in a vacuum that kept the Blues from keeping Petro. It was term, plus money, plus how old he already was.

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Pietrangelo got a seven-year deal, but he was already 30 when it was signed and is currently 31. He will be on the edge of 37 when his contract ends.

Coincidentally, Parakyo will also be 37 when this new contract ends. It’s the money that makes it a win for the Blues.

Assuming both players have a tail-off at the end of their careers, the Blues have the much more palatable cap hit at the end. Vegas, or another team, will be absorbing a cap hit of $8.8 million on a player in their late 30’s. The Blues will be spending $2.3 million less.

In all likelihood, Parayko will not surpass Pietrangelo in terms of what he can provide at his peak abilities. However, when you’re spending $2.3 million less, that’s an additional player of good quality you can add to your roster for the same amount of money as Vegas is spending on one.

Also, too many fans make the Parayko vs. Pietrangelo comparison and it’s not apt because they are different players. Pietrangelo is more offensive minded while being solid defensively. Parayko is probably better in his own end by a hair, but has not yet shown the same ability to put up points.

Regardless of the comparison for a top-pair defenseman with the Blues, the bottom line is that Parayko would be a top-pairing defender for many teams in the league. The argument surrounds whether he’s a top tier defender and the answer is likely not. However, if you’re the 16th best right handed defender out of 32, that’s still pretty great.

A topic brought up on 101 ESPN also bears repeating. Right now, we view the $6.5 million in the viewpoint of an $81.5 million salary cap.

While that cap might be around another season or two, it won’t be the cap ceiling once Parayko enters the back half of his deal. People in the know have suggested the NHL salary cap could be as high as $90 million by the time Parayko enters his last season or two.

Even if he is only as productive as a player like Zdeno Chara has been in his twilight years, that is still acceptable for the price the Blues will be paying, plus they’ll still have an extra $9 million to spend. If Parayko is still in the top half of all defensemen by that time, $6.5 million will be a bargain, relatively speaking.

The reason you make a Chara comparison is not to say Parayko will achieve that level, but more the physical aspect. Parayko will lose speed as he ages, but you cannot teach reach. Even when he’s 37, Parayko is still going to cover more ice with his stick than your average defenseman.

As with most things, though, there are drawbacks.

Long deals are dangerous

The interesting thing about professional sports is that stability is great, but can handcuff you as well. The Blues are doing what they can to extend their championship window by know exactly who is on their roster and for how long, giving them the ability to supplement that core talent.

The flip side of that is the longer you are tied to a group of players, the more you are tied to the inevitable downside of that group. Of course the Chicago Blackhawks and their lengthy deals handed out to their stars are a prime example.

However, the better comparison for the Blues might be the San Jose Sharks. Chicago went too far with both term and deal, giving two players over $10 million and several others got long, high-dollar deals too.

The Blues, really, are not overpaying anyone at this point. Like the Sharks, you run the risk of hitting that tipping point where your team suddenly becomes too old and the price of the contracts makes it too hard to revamp intstead of rebuild.

San Jose ran into that by continually trying to take the next step with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and several other guys that kept getting one year older. Their tipping point came when they blindly gave an insane contract to Erik Karlsson.

The worry is always that you might be paying $6.5 million for someone that could be a third pair defender by the end. The Blues are essentially banking on the first four years and accepting whatever happens after.

The other worry is, when this extension kicks in, the Blues will be paying four players $6.5 million each and three of those are defenders. As long as they live up to their potential, those are good deals, but $6.5 million is in that odd range where it’s a steal if you’re playing well and closer to an albatross once you fall off.

That’s risky for a player that has been up and down. Parayko never quite settled into the role of the top defender in 2021 and seemed lost without a steady partner like he had in Jay Bouwmeester.

Yet, we have seen how good he can be when he’s comfortable. He’s capable of putting up 10-plus goals and more than 30 points and still has not lived up to his offensive potential.

The benefit the Blues have is that they don’t need Parayko do be an offensive powerhouse. Justin Faulk and Torey Krug can handle the points. The Blues need Parayko do be the defender that, along with Bouwmeester, shut down the top lines of the opponents in 2018-19.

If he can be that, his cap hit is a steal. If Parayko doesn’t take that step and find his consistency, $6.5 million is a bit high.

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However, whatever complaints we have, the reason this deal is a good one is because the open market is insane. Love him or not, I do not believe Pietrangelo is worth nearly $9 million.

Similarly, Parayko almost surely would have been handed more than $7 million on the open market. So, the Blues were wise to get this done while he still felt St. Louis was home.