Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Post Dispatch News Service via Getty Images)
Vladimir Tarasenko may have just signed a monster eight-year, $60 million, but his main concern is helping the St. Louis Blues take the next step. Tarasenko said he’s already focused on scoring more goals next season – he had 37 in 2014-15 – and wants the Blues to unite around one goal: the Stanley Cup.
Vladimir Tarasenko inked a massive eight-year, $60 million contract with St. Louis Tuesday afternoon that will keep him as a Blue until after his 31st birthday. But with contract talks concluded and having signed on the dotted line, Tarasenko is already putting his new deal in the past and turning his focus to improving, if that’s somehow possible for the blossoming 23-year-old star.
“This is going to be (my eighth year) of pro hockey,” Tarasenko said. “In these eight years I’ve had a lot of stuff happen, a lot of hard situations. But I’ve worked all my life to make this deal, and I’m not stupid to quit working and stop improving myself. That’s what my parents and my grandfather told me when I was young: it doesn’t matter how many goals you scored, you need to score more every year.”
That Tarasenko, who scored 37 goals and 73 points in 2014-15, says he wants to score more is a terrifying prospect for goaltenders throughout the league.
At times throughout his NHL career, Tarasenko has looked near unstoppable and 2014-15 saw him score a number of how-did-he-do-that style goals. Even still, he’s aware that big numbers will be expected from him with the $7.5 million cap hit he’ll carry. He’s ready to meet that challenge, he says, but his eyes are fixed on a bigger prize.
“We still don't have a Cup,” Tarasenko said. "So all that I'm thinking about, all that I'm dreaming about, is to win a Cup."
Tarasenko knows that after three consecutive first-round exits, the pressure is on for St. Louis, led by coach Ken Hitchcock, to get through the first round and finally make the deep playoff run that has been expected of the club for the past few seasons. When asked if with his new, big money deal he needs to be a locker room leader for the team, Tarasenko said he feels as though he's already a leader of sorts, and money won't change that.
“I worked hard the past three years to make the leadership group,” Tarasenko said. “My teammates, my coach and my general manager trust me. I always try to make them happy. That’s how I grew up. My father and my grandfather told me, ‘You need to be a leader everywhere.’”
And now, he hopes, he can be part of the group to take St. Louis all the way to the Stanley Cup. To get there, Tarasenko doesn’t envision big changes for the Blues, either. Instead, Tarasenko said, what needs to change is the actions of the entire team, not the actions of one single player.
“We lost three years in a row in the same style,” Tarasenko said. “Those were tough years for us. We need to break it…we need to stay together. I think the main part for me is we need to have one goal. So it’s not about points, it’s not about goals, it’s not about whatever. It’s all about the Cup. If 26 guys dream about the same thing, I think we can make it.”