The Blues boosted their organizational depth in a major way with the signing of Tage Thompson.
The St. Louis Blues announced on Tuesday afternoon that they’ve signed 2016 first-round pick Tage Thompson to a three-year entry-level contract that will begin next season. Thompson will report to the AHL Chicago Wolves for the remainder of the season, playing under an amateur tryout arrangement.
The 19-year-old Thompson, who measures in at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, spent the past two seasons at the University of Connecticut. Thompson, a natural center, played in 34 games this season, scoring 19 goals and collecting 13 assists with a minus-6 rating and 24 penalty minutes. That production was a slight per-game improvement over his freshman season, when he collected 14 goals and 18 assists with a minus-14 rating.
Thompson will likely need to add some more bulk to his frame and get acclimated to the defensive challenges of playing center at the NHL level, but the reviews of his collegiate performance have been extremely positive, and it would be shocking if his name wasn’t at least in the conversation for an NHL spot next fall. Without David Backes and Troy Brouwer this season, the Blues have lacked a skill player with the size and aggressiveness needed to make plays in front of the net, and Thompson definitely appears to have the skill necessary to fill that type of role down the road.
With Ivan Barbashev’s development ahead of schedule, Zach Sanford having been acquired just prior to the trade deadline, and Patrik Berglund receiving a five-year contract extension, the Blues suddenly have a surplus of depth at the center position heading into the 2017-18 season.
With Paul Stastny’s contract due to expire after ’17-’18 and Jori Lehtera’s expiring after 2018-19, the Blues will certainly have the freedom to move forward with young players at the position in the coming years, but the added depth could give them the flexibility to move either Stastny or Lehtera–both of whom have failed to live up to the value of their contracts–if an opportunity happens to present itself.