Poganski waits on starting contract with the St. Louis Blues
GRAND FORKS — The St. Louis Blues gave Austin Poganski the option of starting his newly signed NHL contract this season, joining the NHL club right away and collecting his signing bonus and prorated contract immediately.
But like he’s done for much of his career, Poganski is looking at the big picture and made a decision on what’s best for the long run.
Poganski, who just completed his four-year UND career, decided to push back his two-year deal — the mandatory length for a player of his age signing under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement — until next season.
Then, he will collect his signing bonus of $75,000 and start his quest to play in the NHL.
Poganski wanted his contract to run through the 2019-20 season, instead of having it end after next season.
“I thought from my past experience from going to high school to junior or junior to college, it took time for me to transition into the next league,” Poganski said. “I feel that having an extra year of development and time to develop my game is the best way.
“Obviously, when you start talking money, it would be nice to have that money. But if you burn a year and lay an egg, you’re in a tighter spot. For me, it gives me an extra year to hopefully prove myself. I’m hopefully not just going to be a one-year guy.”
Two other players signed entry-level deals with the Blues along with Poganski this week and both chose to start their contracts immediately.
While some NHL teams promise college prospects NHL games at the end of the season if they sign, Poganski didn’t have that guarantee. The Blues are currently in a battle for a playoff spot.
Because Poganski returned to school for his senior season, he also had the option of not signing with the Blues and becoming a free agent later this summer. The St. Cloud, Minn., native didn’t really consider that.
“I think St. Louis is a good spot for me,” he said. “They play a north-south game like myself. They’ve been really good to me ever since they drafted me with development camps and keeping in touch. There was no reason to consider that (free agency).”
Poganski finished his career at UND with 37 goals and 84 points in 162 games.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger played in 155 consecutive games to finish his career. He never missed a game beyond the second month of his freshman season. He was the only player on the roster to suit up for all 44 games during UND’s 2015-16 NCAA national championship year. Poganski scored in the championship game, a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac.
The second-longest active consecutive games streak for UND is Shane Gersich at 91 games, followed by Colton Poolman at 80 games.
Poganski was a fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2014.
Although he could have signed last summer, he opted to return for his senior season and become team captain.
Poganski, who will join an American Hockey League team in San Antonio for the next three weeks, is planning to finish his entrepreneurship degree this spring or summer.
“When you’re going through the recruiting process for what colleges to go to, you list pros and cons,” Poganski said. “Now, having gone through four years at UND, I can’t even imagine going anywhere else. It has the best facilities, the best fans and great coaches here. I have to give credit to the coaches for giving me a chance to play here. It’s been unbelievable.”