We got word late Friday morning the Blues had re-signed center Patrik Berglund to a five-year contract extension worth $19.25 million, a raise from his previous average annual value of $3.7 million to $3.85 million.
The new deal makes Berglund the 49th highest paid center in the NHL, one spot behind the comparable Mike Fisher of Nashville, who makes $4 million. Also in the area are Ottaway’s Kyle Turris, who makes $4 million to provide a few more points and much less size and defensive conscience, and Dallas’ Cody Eakin, who is a smaller version of Berglund…a number-three center who, when healthy, delivers 30 to 40 points per season.
Berglund was a first round draft choice who is never going to be a point-a-game scorer.
Many Blues fans think he isn’t an important player because he’s not a prolific scorer, but look at previous Stanley Cup Champions and they have a player like him.
Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino was charged with defending Joe Thornton in the Finals last season. The Blackhawks employed former Blue Michael Hanzdus for a pair of their titles, and Jonathon Toews and Antoine Vermette another time. The Kings have Kopitar. Whether it’s a star or not, when you’re in the playoffs you need a big, defensive center. Berglund isn’t a star, but he’s that player for the Blues.
St. Louis has Paul Stastny, who is 6-0 and 200 pounds and Kyle Brodziak, who’s 6-2 and 212, under contract through next season. The 6-4, 223 Berglund is an important part of what the Blues are going to need in the next five years in the NHL Central Division. Chicago has the rugged Toews, who’s 6-2 and 201, and Artem Anisimov at 6-4, 198. Nashville’s top center, Ryan Johansen is 6-3 and 218 and Fisher is 6-1, 215. Minnesota’s top three centers…Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle and Eric Stall, are all at least 6-3 and all at least 210 pounds. On Sunday, the Wild traded for 6-6, 238-pound Martin Hanzal from Arizona. Dallas and Winnipeg have big centers, too.
So, when the Blues looked at their roster for next season, but most importantly beyond, they didn’t see much defensive size.
Last year’s first rounder, Tage Thompson, will fill out, but may not be here by 2018. Ivan Barbashev is smallish and not a defensive specialist. When General Manager Doug Armstrong looked at his roster, he thought “You look at the role that he plays on our team, the size that he brings to our team, the position that he plays…you look at the free agent class that’s available, and it looked like the right player to get signed under contract.” Indeed, free agency doesn’t portend an abundance of big, defensive minded centers in 2017.
Last year, the Blues watched a big, solidly defensive center head to free agency, and David Backes got a five year $30 million deal from the Bruins. Berglund isn’t what Backes is, but when you see that deal, it would be easy to see Berglund getting more than what he got. He scored sixteen goals in thirty games, and that led many to believe the Blues jumped into action. Not so, says Armstrong. “This decision wasn’t based on a two-or-three week scoring run. It was based on his size, his skill level…and a player that we really appreciate in our group. This is based on a very competitive, top nine forward.”
That’s what the Blues are going to pay Berglund for over the next five years. He’s a competitive player. He isn’t great, and he isn’t being paid like a great player. The top centers in the NHL are getting at least $9 million a year. Toews makes $10 million a year more than Berglund. Anze Kopitar of Los Angeles is making $14 million as the highest paid center in the league.
All in all, this is a good, value move for the Blues. Berglund knows what the Blues want from him, and they know what he delivers for them. He’s big and plays hard defensively. And this signing allows the Blues to have an important piece of their puzzle who’s only 28 years old, and to make moves in future off-seasons, too.