St. Albert product Colton Parayko will be staying in St. Louis for the next nine years.
The 28-year-old defender inked an eight-year, $52-million contract extension Sept. 1 to stay with the Blues. The deal will come into effect at the start of the 2022/23 season and will run through 2029/30.
The long-term deal shows commitment on both sides. Parayko said he has enjoyed his time with the Blues and is happy to get this out of the way.
“It’s a privilege to play in the NHL and having six years in the league and now nine more is definitely exciting,” said Parayko.
With a big contract come high expectations. Parayko has been a consistent 20-plus point scorer in the league, but came up with just 12 during the most recent shortened season. He said that, with the contract now out of the way, he will continue to work on becoming a better defender.
“I’ll continue to improve my game in all aspects,” said Parayko. “I’ll make sure to continue to defend well and make it hard on other players with my size.
“I want to improve on the offensive side of things and try to chip in that way and just continue to get better.”
Parayko was drafted by the Blues 86th overall at the 2012 NHL Draft and made his NHL debut with the club three years later in 2015. Since then, he has been a mainstay on the team, deployed as one of the club’s top pairing defenders.
He said he will look to become a leader in the dressing room now that he is one of the longest-tenured players on the team.
“We have a lot of new players coming — whether it’s free agency, trades, or just rookies — so as a guy who has been here for a while I want to bring everyone in and make them feel welcome,” said Parayko.
The team is coming off a few disappointing first-round exits in the years following their Stanley Cup championship in 2019. They’ve added talented players such as Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich to the roster to go deeper in the post-season.
Parayko is confident they have what it takes to go deeper into the playoffs.
“The year that we won we were in last place going into January,” said Parayko. “We just have to stick with it throughout the year and it’ll be about coming together at the right time and making a good push into the playoffs.”
There is also the notion of the 2022 Winter Olympics looming for Parayko. The NHL announced that players would be allowed to play for their national teams for the event and Parayko could be one of the names that gets selected for Team Canada’s blue line.
He said that while that would be a dream come true, his first priority will be playing well with the Blues.
“It is something you always dream about as a kid,” said Parayko. “It is one of those things you can’t focus on ... you just have to go out there and put your best foot forward each game.
“If your team is winning, it makes the individuals better as well so, with that being said, you want to show up to each game playing your best to help your team win.”
The money and fame could easily lead an NHL player to forget his roots, but that isn’t the case with Parayko. In the days after signing on the dotted line, he still thinks fondly of St. Albert and is thankful to hail from such a supportive community.
“You can never forget where you started,” said Parayko. “A lot of my really good friends are from St. Albert and I still keep in touch with them ... It goes to show how cool the hockey community is.”
The Blues are set to open pre-season action later this month, with their first game going against the Minnesota Wild on Sept. 25. Fans will have to wait a little bit longer for their regular-season schedule to kick off as it is currently set for Oct. 16 against the Colorado Avalanche.