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|3 июня 2012 года.|
Tarasenko decides to play for the Blues; Top Russian prospect 'The Tank' leaves big money behind to sign three-year contract // St. Louis Post - Dispatch
"The Tank" will be rolling into St. Louis this summer.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a representative for Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko informed Blues general manager Doug Armstrong that the 2010 first-round draft pick will play in the NHL in 2012-13.
Tarasenko, nicknamed the Tank because of his frame (6-foot and 215 pounds at age 20) spurned a more lucrative financial offer to play in the Russian KHL to accept a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blues. He has agreed to the terms, but hasn't signed it because the NHL's collective-bargaining agreement prohibits teams from signing draft picks in June.
"We can't execute it until July 1," Armstrong said. "But he's informed his Russian teams that he's coming to North America. There are certainly some details to get ironed out with the contract, but both sides are satisfied that he'll be in North America next season."
A deadline Saturday for players to re-sign with their KHL club prompted the right winger's long-awaited announcement. According to Armstrong, the Blues and Tarasenko reached an agreeable contract "a day or two ago, but he had to make a decision" between the NHL and KHL.
At 1:30 a.m. St. Louis time, Tarasenko's Russian-based agent, Alexei Dementiev, phoned Armstrong, who was in Toronto for the NHL combine. Dementiev delivered the good news and then told Armstrong that Tarasenko would call him a few hours later.
"I was just sort of tossing and turning the rest of the night in anticipation of talking to him," Armstrong said. "We spoke and it was 'Congratulations, we're excited to have you, I know it was a difficult decision.' I just wanted to let him know how happy we were to have him. He said he was very excited to be here."
HockeysFuture.com ranks Tarasenko as the NHL's No. 3 prospect behind Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn. They both played in the NHL last season, making Tarasenko the top prospect not yet in the league.
"Vladimir Tarasenko is not your typical Russian forward," the website writes. "Yes, the cerebral finesse game is there. What makes him different from many Russian forwards is that he has a gritty side to his game. He is always in impeccable shape, which allows him to handle a more physical style of game. In terms of ability and conditioning, he is ready for the NHL."
Tarasenko has played the past four seasons in the KHL, posting 52 goals and 48 assists in 176 games. This year, Tarasenko was traded to SKA St. Petersburg, where he netted 10 goals and six assists in 15 playoff games.
Tarasenko's inclusion on Russia's roster for the world championships in May seemed likely, but he did not make the team and Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov indicated the reason was because he was out of shape.
It was difficult to argue the decision after Russia won the gold medal, but some speculated Tarasenko's omission was political, putting him on alert that if he chose to play the NHL, a spot on the national team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, wouldn't be guaranteed.
It was one of several factors that fueled the belief that Tarasenko would return to the KHL. Others included the possibility of the 2012-13 NHL not starting on time or being canceled due to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement on Sept. 15, and also the money Tarasenko would be leaving on the table to make the move to North America.
The maximum base salary permitted for a 2010 draft pick is $900,000, which can be increased slightly with performance bonuses. But even so, a Russian report said that SKA St. Petersburg offered Tarasenko as much as $4 million per season.
"He certainly had a contract (offer) in value that outshot what he could sign as an entry-level contract in the NHL, so I think it's a testament to the process," Armstrong said. "The Blues went to (the Czech Republic) last year and made a push (for Tarasenko to come to St. Louis). He said he wanted to stay one more year. We were accepting of that and he went back and played in the KHL. I think it was part of the relationship building."
Recently, Armstrong traveled to Finland to meet Tarasenko at the world championships. But after being taken off the roster, Tarasenko left Finland and returned to Russia before Armstrong arrived. When the meeting was scheduled to happen, however, Tarasenko was back in Finland.
"I knew that he was serious because he took an 11-hour train ride from Moscow for a two-hour meeting and an 11-hour train ride back," Armstrong said.
At the meeting, he told Tarasenko "why I felt the next stage of his career was in North America. But I was also very honest, telling him the NHL is a very difficult league and nothing is given in this league. He's going to have to come over here and wrestle a job away from an NHL player. He's going to have to be accountable to his teammates on a nightly basis. I tried to be honest with him that it's not going to be an easy transition, but it's a worthwhile transition, and for the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world, I think that excited him."
Dementiev told the Russian publication Sport-Express on Saturday, "(Tarasenko) decided he had a childhood dream to play in the National Hockey League."
Armstrong believes that Tarasenko is ready for the challenge, but he wanted to temper the expectations.
"We're excited to have a player of his caliber come to our team at this age," he said. "He's going to have a great opportunity to come in and make our team and make a statement, but we're not relying on him to push a team over the top. So I don't want the fan base to put pressure on this player to come in and get 50 goals next year. It's unrealistic, but we truly believe we have an excellent young player that's going to be a dynamic player in our league in the future."