In the eleventh hour of the NHL offseason, the St. Louis Blues announced that they signed restricted free agent center Robert Thomas to a two-year deal worth $5.6 million, averaging out to a $2.8 million cap hit. If those numbers sound familiar, it’s because the Blues gave the exact same term and dollars to fellow youngster Jordan Kyrou earlier this summer. In a summer in which contract extensions were given out to Kyrou, Zach Sanford, Ivan Barbashev, and Tyler Bozak, along with deals for newcomers Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad, Thomas’ contract situation was put off until seemingly the last minute. Thankfully for Blues fans, the two sides were able to get a deal over the line just in time for training camp.
What the deal means for St. Louis
Thomas has had an up and down start to his career, leading most Blues fans to believe that he can elevate his play to another level on his second deal. After making the team in his first professional season out of training camp in a 2018-19 rookie campaign in which he helped the Blues capture their first Stanley Cup, many thought the sky was the limit for the center. The past couple of seasons, however, have been marred by injuries and growing pains for the former first-round pick. If Thomas can stay healthy and continue to develop, the $2.8 million cap hit could be one of the best value deals in the league. From the player"s perspective, keeping the deal at two years could very well put Thomas in a favorable position once he reaches free agency again, still only at the age of 24.
With Oskar Sundqvist set to begin the season on long-term injured reserve, the Blues will be able to squeeze Thomas" contract in and stay under the cap. However, once Sundqvist is healthy, they will be forced into making a move in order to stay cap compliant. Of course, there is still a chance that Vladimir Tarasenko could be dealt, but nothing has materialized on that front.
While a natural center, Thomas has mostly played on the right-wing so far in his NHL career and that is where he is most likely to start the season alongside Bozak. We saw the two of them last year alternating playing center and wing throughout the course of games, so that would not be surprising to see again this year. However, if Thomas is indeed ready to take that next step, he will eventually need to be bumped up in the lineup, perhaps pushing Brayden Schenn to the wing, which the Blues have flirted with doing in parts of the last two seasons.
So far in his career, Thomas has played in 169 NHL games, all for St. Louis, while totaling 22 goals and 87 points in three seasons. Additionally, he has scored 12 points in 33 career playoff games, winning the Stanley Cup in 2019.
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