The St. Louis Blues and forward Jaden Schwartz avoided arbitration on Friday after agreeing to a five-year 25.75 million-dollar contract.
Blues general manager, Doug Armstrong said of the 24-year-old, “He is an important player for us now and an important player in the future. He is entering the best part of his career, and to have him signed, having [Vladimir] Tarasenko signed, we have got Jake [Allen] signed for five years now and [Alex] Pietrangelo for four more. We have access to [Robby] Fabbri and [Colton] Parayko, so the nucleus of our team is obviously getting younger.”
He added, “Getting key players signed to term under contract, it is good for the organization, and we can now build around these players.”
By signing Schwartz and Tarasenko, both 24-year-olds and the trust that they put into Fabbri (20) and Parayko (23), show that the Blues are becoming a younger, faster team.
By allowing veterans like, captain David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Steve Ott the opportunity to walk as unrestricted free agents, and trading goaltender Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames this summer, prove the amount of trust that they have in their young core.
Armstrong said, “You evolve the way the league is evolves, and there has been a core group of players that has now matured. Now it is time for the next wave to take charge. I do not think it is that we are trying to make a statement. It is just the reality of the business that Tarasenko, and Schwartz and Allen and Parayko now entering the part of their careers now where they need to be the ones doing the heavy lifting.”
This past season Schwartz played just 33 games after fracturing his left ankle during practice on October 23. He put up eight goals and 14 assists on the 2015-2016 campaign. During the postseason, he added four more goals and 10 assists in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping the Blues to the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.
Armstrong said, “We had hoped to get something done [before the arbitration hearing Wednesday]. We actually started talking about this last year at the start of the season about a new contract and term, but then the injury happened [and] both sides thought it best to put it off at that time knowing we would get back to it. Then you get into the postseason, and it takes a little time to put these deals together. Ultimately, both sides were able to find the right amount of years and right dollar value.”
The Blues are less than four million-dollars under the salary cap, with 22 contracts on the books for the upcoming season. Once Vladimir Sobotka rejoins the club, later this summer, that number will change.
Sobotka is spent the past two seasons over in the Kontinental Hockey League, with Omsk Avangard. He is expected to opt out of his KHL contract to return to St. Louis. Sobotka salary cap hit will add 2.725 to the Blues total.
Armstrong added, “This year looks like we are in a solid spot now. Obviously, next year we have some key players that are unrestricted free agents [forward Alexander Steen and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk] that we will have to resign or open up space to for us to do other things.”
He added, “With the cap staying relatively stagnant the last couple of years, we forecast it would stay the same and we think we are in a good spot with the contracts we have moving forward. You want a core group of players with their contracts extended out and then you fill support around that.”