Blues fans continue to sweat as Colton Parayko continues to languish in the limbo of restricted free agency. Though some concerns were addressed upon Parayko’s decision to opt for salary arbitration (the move made him ineligible to receive offer sheets), there’s extended nervousness surrounding Parayko’s long term outlook.
The arbitration hearing is scheduled for Thursday, and ahead of that meeting, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted the details of the contract requests made by each party:
STL has asked for a two-year deal on Parayko at $3.4M and $3.6M. He is asking for one year at $4.85. Still time for settlements.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 18, 2017
If an agreement isn’t reached before the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator involved will select one of the two proposed contracts for Parayko to play under for the next season (or two). In either case, Parayko would still be a restricted free agent when the deal expires.
Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong has made his feelings on the situation clear, calling Parayko “our priority.”
"Colton is our guy," Armstrong said. "And he's really the one we want to focus on."
Other teams, of course, have “their guy.” One interesting example is Jaccob Slavin, who signed a 7 year, $37.1M deal with the Carolina Hurricanes last Wednesday.
Slavin is 23 years old; Parayko is 24. The NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that a player is first eligible for unrestricted free agency once they’re past the age of 27, meaning the deal Slavin signed requires him to surrender one more free agent year than a theoretical contract for Parayko.
Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm signed a 6 year, $31.5M extension last October. The increase in average annual value from Lindholm’s deal to Slavin’s is $95,000; all but a wash.
Interestingly, neither Lindholm nor Slavin receive any of their annual salary in the form of a signing bonus. This is relevant when considering the possibility of a lock out before the 2020-21 season, as signing bonuses are generally paid in the summer preceding the season.
Payment of those bonuses, therefore, would precede any labor stoppage that would also stop paychecks. As a point of contrast, nearly all of the money Connor McDavid will receive in his mega extension from the Oilers will come in the form of a bonus.
The bonus issue is relevant as one that may separate Parayko from the pack. If his representation is looking to secure a deal that represents a “step up” from that of Slavin and Lindholm, a larger percentage of the deal paid as a signing bonus could be a way to secure that distinction.
This might represent a challenge to the Blues, who have been somewhat tight lipped about their financial status. Majority owner Tom Stillman revealed to Game Time that the team profits “a little less” than $1 million per home playoff game, providing an important cash flow opportunity for a team in the middle of a battle to refurbish their home rink.
Ultimately, Blues fans can feel secure in the knowledge that Parayko will be patrolling the blue line next season. It’s likely he’ll be doing so under the auspices of a long term deal. If not, we get to repeat this dance next season or the season after.
And haven’t we all had fun?