Vladimir Tarasenko still has his old corner locker spot in the St. Louis Blues dressing room.
He opened training camp Friday a bit hungrier following another first-round playoff exit and also a bit richer after receiving an eight-year, $60 million contract extension during the offseason.
“I never worried about it,” said Tarasenko, who led the Blues in scoring last season with 37 goals and 73 points. “If you play good you’ll get paid good. That’s not the question for me.”
Tarasenko and his teammates were anxious to hit the ice again Friday at Scottrade Center.
“It’s the same feeling,” he said. “Like the last three years when you came back here you’re really happy and really proud to be here and hang out with the guys. We’re looking forward to our first preseason games, we can’t wait to play.”
The contract extension did more than just reward Tarasenko for a career that already includes 66 goals and 135 points in 179 games.
“It’s good not only for me, it’s for my family, too,” said Tarasenko, who also got married right around the time he received a new contract. “Me and my wife are really happy to stay here. This is a really good city with beautiful people around us. Right now what I aim to do is play really good hockey and stay on the same level.
“The better you play, the more aggressive other teams play on you. This is a way to kind of step up and kind of prove your skill and improve your mind. We’ll see.”
Gomez hoping for good fit with Blues
A year ago at this time, veteran center Scott Gomez had to prove he still belonged in the NHL after being invited to training camp on a pro tryout basis by the New Jersey Devils.
The 35-year-old former first-round pick more than proved himself, putting up a rejuvenating seven goals and 34 points in only 57 games with the Devils.
Unwanted by the Devils, Gomez was invited to training camp on a tryout basis by a Blues team that seems to have needs at forward. Blues forward Patrik Berglund is out four months after undergoing shoulder surgery and center Jori Lehtera is out with an ankle injury.
Enter Gomez, whose former Devils teammate and good friend Martin Brodeur is now the Blues’ assistant general manager. Gomez was skating on a line Friday that included Blues newcomer Troy Brouwer.
“It’s a well-balanced team and obviously Marty, the relationship we have, I talk to him a lot,” said Gomez, who bounced around a bit before landing with the Devils again last season. “This was the best opportunity for myself and the Blues. I trust Marty and always have. This is where I want to be and I know I can help this club out.
“When they called I was definitely excited. It’s my job to make them keep me. That’s been my idea every training camp since I’ve been a rookie.”
Why did Gomez feel the Blues were a good fit?
“Just the talent, the group of individuals, the coaching staff ... you look at the lineup up and down and it’s a great team,” he said. “It’s right there on the verge and yeah, i want to be a part of that. I did my homework.”
Gomez discussed why his numbers improved so much last season.
“I’m probably not the best grinder or fourth-line checker there is, but last year they put me in a situation where I was still able to pass the puck and make plays,” he said. “It wasn’t a shock to me. A different opportunity presented itself and that’s the way I can play. Obviously last year playing for Adam Oates just taught me aspects of the game that I never had.”
The NHL salary cap restrictions hasn’t always been kind to some veteran players with hefty contracts. Gomez was once in that category, but last season made $550,000 with the Devils.
“No matter if you’ve got a contract or not, you’ve got to make them keep you,” he said. “That’s always been the bottom line.”