The Blues are locking up center Robert Thomas long-term, the team announced Wednesday.
Thomas, who has another year left on his contract and would have been a restricted free agent next summer, is signing for $65 million over eight years, an $8.125 million average annual value. A source close to the negotiations told The Athletic early Wednesday the deal was done after Frank Seravalli of DailyFaceoff first reported it was closed.
So, on the first day of free agency around the NHL, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is taking care of future business.
Thomas, 23, will be receiving quite the raise from his current $2.8 million average annual value after a productive 2021-22 season. He scored 20 goals, reaching that plateau for the first time in his four-year career, and he led the team with 57 assists.
He solidified his spot as the Blues’ No. 2 center and even took some responsibility off the back of Captain Ryan O’Reilly in the middle. What allowed that, in part, was becoming a lot more reliable in the faceoff circle, improving his winning percentage to 49.9 percent from 42.6 percent the previous year.
That made it clear that the Blues were going to be committing to Thomas at some point, and with Wednesday’s contract extension, they have done so a year early, finding a sweet spot with the 2017 first-round draft pick before another solid year might have increased his stock even more.
This new deal will begin in 2023-24, when CapFriendly has the Blues listed as spending about $47 million so far toward the projected $83.2 million cap ceiling. Thomas’ deal would put them at about $55 million on 10 contracts, leaving them without $28 million in available space. They will have several unrestricted free agents, though, including O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev, along with a notable restricted free agent in Jordan Kyrou.
Thomas and Kyrou signed matching two-year, $5.6 million contracts last summer, and like Thomas, Kyrou had a breakout season in 2021-22. He scored 27 goals and finished just two points behind Thomas with 75. So he’ll also be due a bump in salary. It will be interesting to see if the Blues handle that before the start of the season or hold off.
The Blues have taken care of some of that business already with Thomas, which will give them a better idea of what they can spend. It’s perhaps part of the reason, as suggested recently, that they haven’t been able to offer David Perron a contract extension. He’ll become a UFA today and is expected to test the market.
There could be more developments with the club as the free-agency window opens at 11 am CT Wednesday.
(Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today)