St. Louis Blues sign Klim Kostin to three-year, entry-level contract

The  Blues quickly completed the often-difficult task of wrestling their first-rounder away from the KHL.

The St. Louis Blues announced on Wednesday morning that they’ve signed forward Klim Kostin, their second first-round pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract. That means they’ve quickly eliminated the biggest concern for every Russian NHL draftee–making sure that they’re willing to come to North America rather than staying in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.

Kostin had been playing for the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow, which has been dealing with an embezzlement scandal recently, but was released from his contract earlier this week. He was widely considered the top European skater in this year’s draft class, but his stock fell due to the fact that he was coming off shoulder surgery, along with the obvious concerns about his signability.

Kostin will attend the Traverse City prospect tournament and training camp with the Blues this fall and certainly will be given a chance to break camp with the NHL club, though that’s somewhat unlikely, first of all because he won’t complete his rehab from surgery until September, and secondly because the Blues already have 16 forwards on their roster who spent extensive time in the NHL last season and will be battling for spots.

Kostin will likely be a little bit more high-maintenance than the typical 18-year-old prospect. NHL.com’s Lou Korac wrote Tuesday that Kostin has “dismissed junior hockey as an option for the 2017-18” season, so the Blues will have to find him a place to play in the AHL if he doesn’t make the opening-night roster. That could be difficult considering that they don’t have their own AHL affiliate for the 2017-18 season and thus can’t really guarantee him playing time.

On the bright side, however, they’ll have him at their disposal for the entire season, rather than losing the ability to call him up from October to April, as they would if he decided to play in a Canadian junior league. If he establishes himself as an NHL-ready player at midseason, the Blues will be able to call him up, which could provide them a major in-season boost.

The only real negative is that he’ll be able to earn a relatively big payday after his age 20 season, which could be an obstacle for a Blues organization that is attempting to keep their young core of Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Jake Allen together long-term.