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Blues' Tarasenko turns focus to becoming a leader

by Dan Rosen

Vladimir Tarasenko doesn't equate money to leadership, but the eight-year, $60 million contract he signed Tuesday is proof of how convinced the St. Louis Blues are that Tarasenko is a huge part of their future, which means he should be a big part of their leadership core too.

That's Tarasenko's next goal, to prove to his teammates that he is a leader.

"I worked hard the last three years to make the leadership group," said Tarasenko, who had 37 goals and 73 points last season. "I can handle the pressure, and if my teammates, my coach, and my general manager trust me, I will try and make them happy. That's how I grow up. My father and my grandfather tell me you need to be a leader everywhere, it doesn't matter who you're playing for. I will try."

Tarasenko defines a leader as someone whose actions speak loud enough that people have no choice but to follow him.

"It's a really good feeling when you don't talk a lot in the locker room and you go out on the ice and people follow you," he said. "That's what leadership is for me."

That's why he doesn't think money has anything to do with being a leader even though his contract now makes him the money leader in the dressing room.

His salary-cap charge of $7.5 million is the highest on the team, $500,000 more than Paul Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract last summer.

"This is about your personality, how you can talk to the guys, how you can help the guys," Tarasenko said. "I think money is important, but in leadership terms this is nothing. You can sign $50 million contract in one year, but teammates can hate you, so it's not really good for you."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Tarasenko talked to him about being a team leader during the contract negotiations, convincing him that he's serious about being a part of the Blues' leadership core along with players such as David Backes, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Steen and Stastny.

"There's going to be enough pressure to play with this contract on its own, but Vladimir has said to me he wants to be part of it, he wants part of the leadership, he wants to be the guy," Armstrong said. "He wants to be the guy his teammates can count on. He wants to be the guy that can speak his mind on what needs to be done. Those are exciting things when you hear that from a 23-year-old. I see him grabbing a part of our leadership group, whether it's this September or he evolves into it."

The first sign of Tarasenko's leadership is expected to come this summer.

He said he will return from Russia to St. Louis in early August to start training. He returned in early September last year.

"I work all my life to make this deal and I'm not going to stupid to just stop working and stop improving myself," Tarasenko said. "That's how my parents, my father and my grandfather, tell me when I was young. You need to be better every time. It doesn't matter how many goals you score, you need to score more every year.

"We still don't have a Cup, so all what I think about and all what I dream about is just the Stanley Cup."


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