July 26: The Blues have officially announced the contract, confirming the details previously reported.
July 25: Forward Nathan Walker and the St. Louis Blues have reportedly reached an agreement on a new multi-year contract. CapFriendly reports that Walker, an impending unrestricted free agent, will sign a two-year, two-way contract to remain with the Blues. The deal will carry the minimum $750K NHL salary with a $300K AHL salary in 2021-22 and a $310K AHL salary in 2022-23, but with $350K total guaranteed in each season.
Walker, 27, could have tested the open market, but has already had a taste of free agency in 2019 as a Group 6 UFA. He agreed to a two-year deal with St. Louis then and this time around has decided to do the same without waiting until the market opened. Walker’s new contract closely resembles his previous two contracts with the Washington Capitals and Blues in terms of structure – a two-year pact with the minimum NHL salary and a guaranteed total higher than his AHL salary – but he has earned a significant raise. Not only is the NHL minimum salary now $100K higher than it was four years ago and $50K higher than two years ago, but his guaranteed money has increased from $150K to $175K to $300K and now $350K over his career.
The only Australian-born player in the NHL, Walker has established himself as more than just a trivia fact. The 2014 third-round pick has seen NHL action in each of the past four years, capped off by a 2020-21 campaign in which he played in only four AHL games because he spent the rest of the season on the St. Louis roster or taxi squad. Walker has been more of a bottom-six role player in his experience at the top level, but has strong scoring numbers in the AHL and could succeed in a scoring role if the opportunity presented itself. The Blues are a deep team, but could be losing some top scorers this off-season which could in turn lead to a more regular role for Walker moving forward and perhaps even some time in the top-nine.
Getting an impending UFA re-signed is a nice surprise for St. Louis, but does little to alleviate their full plate this off-season. The Blues have just seven forwards currently signed to one-way contracts with five critical RFA’s in need of new contracts and other UFA’s to consider or perhaps replace as well. GM Doug Armstrong and company have their work cut out for them this summer.