When the St. Louis Blues initially gave Alexey Toropchenko a raise, I was all on board. He’s a solid, grind-it-out kind of player that gets to the dirty areas and still has enough skill to be a threat in limited minutes.
There’s nothing wrong with paying that kind of player $1.25 million per season. However, there are some puzzling aspects to it when you think on it a little more.
First, but not necessarily foremost, is the fact he will be making more per season than Oskar Sundqvist. Perhaps it’s not an apples to apples comparison, but that just feels off.
Sundqvist was a key cog in a Stanley Cup champion. He’s older than Toropchenko, but not by a ton – only five years.
Sundqvist has never lit the world on fire, but he’s been a steady performer. Three out of the last five seasons, he’s had double-digit goals. The only reason that wasn’t four out of five was because of the covid-shortened season.
Sundqvist has always had over 20 points when he’s played anything even close to a full season. He’s done this with regularity and now, even though it benefits the Blues, it feels like he’s being underpaid.
Doug Armstrong did the right thing by waiting and, ultimately, getting Sundqvist at the veteran minimum. However, doesn’t it seem odd that a player with a more proven track record that isn’t even 30 yet has to settle for the veteran minimum?
Concurrently, though I personally like Toropchenko, what has he done to deserve almost doubling his salary? He was making $750,000 in 2022-23.
I fully understand that you probably couldn’t get him to sign yet another deal of the minimum. He already had to take a slight pay cut from his entry level deal just to prove himself.
In 2022-23, Toropchenko had a decent season. He had 10 goals and 19 points in 69 games, while only averaging a little over 12 minutes.
He did that once. He has a total of two NHL games in the previous season.
$1.25 million is not going to break the bank, nor will it be an albatross since it’s only for two seasons. Nevertheless, when you really look at it, what has he done to earn that?
Maybe he breaks out this season and shoves my question back in my face. I would absolutely love that.
However, the truth of it is that Armstrong is paying for potential and what the team hopes is a higher ceiling than we’ve seen. The only worry is that while Armstrong has been great at trades and decent at free agent signings from elsewhere, the team has been very hit or miss on grading their own talent as far as extensions.
As mentioned, the salary being given to Toropchenko is not going to determine the quality of the roster. If they had not signed him and let him walk, you’re not going to find much on the market willing to sign for the same price.
It’s just the eye test of it. You’re paying a veteran player with mileage left in the tank and a more proven track record less. You’re giving a pretty sizeable raise, from a percentage standpoint, to a guy who had one OK season.
Don’t get me wrong. I want Toropchenko here and I want him to succeed.
It is only for right now that I question the increase in money. Hopefully by the end of the season both Toropchenko and Sundqvist’s deals look like incredible steals.