Following a breakout season, forward Robert Thomas signed an eight-year contract extension with the St. Louis Blues this summer.
Thomas is 23 years old and this past season, he scored 20 goals and had 77 points in 72 games. His extension carries a $8.13 million cap hit.
Below, we take a look at how Thomas' contract looks for the Blues.
Robert Thomas was originally selected 20th overall by the Blues in 2017. The forward then made the jump to become a regular member of the team's lineup for the 2018-19 season.
He can play either at center or on the wing and last season, he took a much bigger role with the Blues. Thomas' pace of 23 goals and 88 points per 82 games this season was a massive step after posting just three goals and 12 points in 33 games during the 2020-21 campaign. While he may not score a ton of goals from year to year, he's a great playmaker and has strong puck control and agility. He'll also be playing with some quality talent at the top of the team's forward group, which helps his production.
The deal comes a year before Thomas would've been set to become a restricted free agent.
The Cap Hit
There is a certain amount of risk in committing to a contract at over $8 million per year. Robert Thomas has really only had a single outlier year and while it was a great season, his previous production shows he may not necessarily be able to repeat his pace.
Over his first three seasons, Thomas managed only 22 goals and 87 points in 169 games. This works out to a pace of just 11 goals and 42 points per 82. While he may not slip back to that pace, it's still a drastic difference from this year's production.
Thomas is still young and may have taken a permanent step in his game this past season. He's a former first-round pick and certainly has a high ceiling. That said, his shooting percentage was also quite a bit higher this year and it's possible his production could slip to a pace of about 10-15 goals and likely a lower points pace as well.
So it's a bit risky to commit to such a high cap hit when it's still very unclear as to what sustainable production looks like for Thomas. If he's able to repeat his production, or even come reasonably close, he'll bring good value. That said, it's still no guarantee that will happen.
While the term may seem like more of a risk than the cap hit, an eight-year deal actually makes a lot of sense. With Thomas only 23 years old, he could very well play through his entire contract without facing a decline. Plus, with the cap set to rise, it's a win to lock him up for the rest of his 20s.
In signing the extension a year out from Thomas becoming a restricted free agent, the Blues do eliminate the risk that he could repeat his production and drive up his value. That said, it may have been wise for the team to hold off on signing the deal a year out and instead, betting on him not being able to repeat that production.
The No-Trade Clause
Thomas' deal does come with quite a bit of trade protection. While he isn't eligible for trade protection in the first two years of the deal, a full no-trade clause kicks in for the 2025-26 season. At that point, he'll have full trade protection for five years, with a reduction to a 15-team no-trade list coming only in the final year of the deal.
It's not great to be giving out that no-trade clause, as it really limits the team's options. Given the contract itself is also still somewhat of a gamble, there's definitely some risk with the trade protection. As is the case with the cap hit though, should Thomas produce as he did last year, the trade protection won't cause issues.
It's somewhat difficult to project how this deal is going to go for the Blues. Robert Thomas has a limited sample size of high production and St. Louis is betting on him sustaining it. If he can, he's going to provide great value for the duration of his prime years. With the cap rising and Thomas still young, betting on a long-term deal and building around him does make sense.
That said, for the reasons mentioned above, the deal is certainly a risk. Thomas had scored at a pace of just 42 points per 82 games throughout his career prior to this season, so there's certainly a chance he can't repeat this production. Thomas may not see a significant decline, but averaging point-per-game numbers going forward is also far from a sure bet.
This is definitely a high-risk, high-reward deal for the Blues and we'll be able to evaluate the impact in the coming years.