The St. Louis Blues have signed defenceman Colton Parayko to a five-year contract worth a reported $5.5 million a year, the team announced Thursday.

“We’re obviously pleased to have Colton signed up for five years,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “We think that he’s just starting to scratch the surface on what he’s becoming in this league. He’s got two years now of service where he understands the commitment necessary, he understands the league, he understands the players. We just think he has a really strong upside and we’re excited to have him for the next five years.”

The restricted free agent was in line for an arbitration hearing Thursday, but the Blues were able to avoid the process by getting him locked in to a deal just minutes before the proceedings were to begin.

That’s a good thing, as Parayko is arguably the best defenceman on the team. The 24-year-old has a lot of upside and has thus far put together a nice career, with 68 points in 160 games with St. Louis. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and he’s increased his ice time to a consistent 21:12 a game.

Most recently, the Blues have paired him with Joel Edmundson.

“I’m beyond excited to reach a new long-term deal to stay in St. Louis,” Parayko said. “St. Louis has become my home and this is where I want to be. I’m looking forward to the next five years and can’t wait to get back on the ice in September. Playing in St. Louis, in front of all those fans who support us on and off the ice – there’s no better place to be.”

Reports indicated that Parayko was looking for a deal in the one-year range to the tune of about $4.85 million. That would’ve pushed his value up via a bridge deal, putting St. Louis in virtually the same position next summer. The Blues countered with offers of $3.4 million and $3.6 million, eventually tabling the $5.5 million deal signed today by upping the term.

The contract puts Parayko in the same company as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Justin Schultz, Nick Leddy, and others and that’s a pretty impressive list, especially considering the skill level of the Alberta-born blueliner.

“Our defence has always been one of our strengths,” Armstrong said. “When you get a third-round pick that burst onto the scene like Colton did a couple years ago, it really opened up different avenues. We’re really excited to have him a part of our group.”

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