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May 15, 2017 | 11:23am ET
Parayko contract a priority for Blues

Colton Parayko has emerged as one of the NHL's top young defensemen and it sounds like he's going to be paid like one in the near future.

The St. Louis Blues have made it a priority to get Parayko locked up long-term, however that may be, and the price tag is expected to be high.

Parayko, who turned 24 on Friday, is set to become a restricted free agent July 1. It's unclear if contract negotiations have intensified yet, but they most certainly will get going in the coming weeks.

"I believe he's a cornerstone player we could go long term with if it works out economically term-wise for us," Blues GM Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We'll be a cap team, or very close to a cap team, and we've got to try to fit as many good pieces in there. (But) he's here long-term whether it's long-term on shorter deals or long-term on one deal. He's a cornerstone."

It's unclear what type of contract Parayko is looking for, but his salary will undoubtedly climb next season and on.

Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch reports the Blues want to improve their center position, but are wary of the cost.

"I think it's a really important spot in the NHL," Armstrong said. "We saw glimpses from different players this year of really good play and we saw glimpses of play that we need better. I'd like to get consistency with the group that's here.

"But finding that big center is like finding Sasquatch -- they're hard to locate. We're never going to stop trying, but you look at the free-agent pool that's out there this year, and it is a rob Peter to pay Paul league."

It's possible, as the Post-Dispatch notes, the Blues could pursue a player like Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene this off-season, but if the asking price includes a player like Parayko, that's a non-starter.

Armstrong was alluding to the fact that the Blues could trade for an upper-echelon center, such as the New York Islanders’ John Tavares or Colorado’s Matt Duchene. But if it costs them a player like Parayko, then what’s the point?

The paper also reports Jori Lehtera and Carl Gunnarsson may not be protected in the expansion draft, and Armstrong acknowledged that he plans on speaking with Golden Knights GM George McPhee the first week of June.


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