With all the St. Louis Blues chatter surrounding the Vladimir Tarasenko situation, it’s understandable that other items have taken a back seat. Yet, that might not be the correct take on all this.
There is definitely talk among fans, wondering why Robert Thomas has not been signed to a new contract. The bulk of the focus has been on the team, however.
Perhaps that viewpoint needs to be shifted. Perhaps Blues fans should be asking why Thomas has not signed instead of why the team has not signed him.
For the second offseason in a row, the Blues are taking a restricted free agent right down to the wire. In the Fall of 2020, Vince Dunn was the one dragging his feet on whether to sign a new contract or not.
For a player, it makes sense to a point. You want to maximize your earning potential in the relatively small window you have to make boatloads of money.
The problem is that the team holds all the power in both the Thomas situation now and the Dunn situation then. Both players were RFA’s without arbitration rights.
Essentially, that means the Blues can offer whatever they want and the player can either accept it or sit out a year. The only options the player has are to hold out and keep negotiating a higher offer or hope another team puts in an offer sheet and forces the issue.
That did not happen with Dunn and he missed a bit of training camp, which ended up hurting his subsequent value because he had a poor start to the season. The worry is the same will happen with Thomas.
Thomas’ stock has already taken a dip due to a slight regression in 2021. The team still has high hopes for him, but it has quickly transitioned from high potential with patience to we better see production.
From the fan standpoint, the focus is still on the potential. Thus, people wonder why the Blues have not backed the truck full of money up to Thomas’ house.
The problem is he has not actually earned anything yet. We saw what he might become in that first handful of games in 2021, but we also saw how much he can disappear and defer later in the season.
The reason the blame should shift toward Thomas is there are rumblings that Thomas believes he should be paid more than Jordan Kyrou, which could be the main hold up. This was speculated by Jeremy Rutherford and writers at STLToday and The Hockey Writers.
That’s understandable on the surface, given that Thomas played on the team that won the 2019 Stanley Cup and has played in three different seasons. However, Kyrou showed immediate progression and a willingness to accept the constructive criticism given by head coach Craig Berube.
Another factor is that goals get you paid. Kyrou scored 14 goals, with 35 points, in 55 games in 2021.
Thomas’ best season was 2019-20, when he had 10 goals and 42 points in 66 games. Those aren’t giant differences, but Thomas isn’t doing enough to deserve more money right now.
The potential is still there, but he was drafted with the hopes of being a top-line center or a second line center at the very least. He has not grabbed onto any opportunity given to him to take one of those slots.
Thomas is not good in the faceoff circle, with a career percentage of just 43.1% won. He also refuses to even present himself as a shooting threat.
It’s one thing to realize you are a playmaker, but to pass up wide-open shooting chances for a pass that is 50/50 at best is not the way to show your qualities. If you’re pulling in 50 assists, it’s tolerable, but Thomas has got to make himself an actual scoring threat, even if goals are not going in.
Kyrou may be a flash in the pan and $2.8 million may be an over payment. Frankly, I was surprised they offered him that much based on only one season, but teams are more willing to hoard goal scoring potential instead of guys that can dangle and assist others. That’s a big reason the team was willing to let David Perron go the first time. He stick handled too much, to the detriment of the team.
Nobody is saying Thomas should not play the game. If you think you can push this situation to a point of getting $3 million, then that is his right.
However, Thomas cannot afford to not play. That hurts his value to the Blues or any other team that might be interested in him next season, or whenever his contract might run out.
Was Dunn worth more than the $1.8 million the Blues gave him in 2021? Possibly on the market, but it’s debatable for what he provided.
Similar to the Dunn scenario, Thomas needs to just accept what is on the table for now, make it a one-year deal and things will look different next season. On the surface, I get why he thinks he should get more than Kyrou, but the reality is that he has not proven he should.
You can only live on potential for so long. To me, a $1.5 million deal for one year and working things out long term next offseason makes the most sense.
From the fan standpoint, it’s slightly irritating that so many are on the bandwagon to run Tarasenko out of town for peanuts, but this situation gets a pass. What is the main difference between requesting a trade because you are unhappy with your surroundings and someone who may be asking for more money than they are currently worth?
Not a whole lot, is my answer. Based on the reluctance to blame anyone but the team for not having a deal signed, many take the opposite opinion.
Ultimately, this is all speculation. Only Armstrong, Thomas and Thomas’ agent know what’s been offered or discussed. I just don’t like hearing the hold up is some misguided belief you deserve more than the other guy.