Friday, July 20, 2012

Blues, Oshie avoid arbitration with five-year contract

Deal will pay winger $20.875 million total,
$4.175 million on average after a career-high season

ST. LOUIS -- High Noon was fast approaching for both the Blues and T.J. Oshie.

But instead of stating their respective positions in front of an arbitrator, the Blues and Oshie agreed to a contract that benefits both teams when a deal was struck late Thursday night between the two sides on a five-year contract worth $20.875 million (or an average of $4.175 million per season).

Oshie, who was a restricted free agent scheduled to have an arbitration hearing this morning in Toronto, his agent Matt Oates along with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong were able to hammer out a contract that certainly benefits both sides. Oshie gets the lengthy security he desired for the first time in his career (he played three years on a two-way contract plus a one-year deal last season) and the Blues have Oshie locked up for including the last three in which Oshie could have become eligible for unrestricted free agency (under the current collective bargaining agreement).
(Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie will remain part of the Blues' core after signing a five-year
contract late Thursday night, this avoiding arbitration.

But his heart is in St. Louis, and it was important for the 25-year-old, who will make $3.375 for the upcoming season, $4 million in 2013-14 and $4.5 million in each of the final three seasons.

"It's great. I couldn't be any happier to resign with the Blues," Oshie said Friday via conference call. "It's where I've grown as a player and as a pro. As far as the long-term security goes, it's something that I've never had in my career. ... It's nice to have that security, but I still want to keep getting better every day and definitely every year."

Oshie, who is coming off of career highs in goals (19), assists (35), points (54) and games played (80), was a restricted free agent who made $2.35 million on a one-year contract in 2011-12. He was the Blues' first-round pick (No. 24) in 2005. His 54 points were tied for the team lead this past season and was the last of the rostered restricted free agents to get a contract done. David Perron signed a four-year, $15.25 million deal last week.

"We're obviously excited to have T.J. under contract as he enters the prime of his career and to know that we'll have him through that portion," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "It's very rewarding and we think he's a big piece of our team from last year and he's a big piece moving forward."

The Blues and Oshie, were set to have an arbitration hearing Friday at 9 a.m., where both sides would have presented their respective cases for a contract, which would either be a one- or two-year deal of the team's choice. A deal between the two sides at some point leading up to the hearing always seemed like the most likely end result.

"Arbitration is just a tool that both sides have available to them," Armstrong said. "It's just a piece of the process. We exchange briefs and we get an idea where each side is coming from. I think everyone's comfortable with the business side of it that you try not to have any hangover of emotion based on an arbitration hearing.

"We knew today at 9 a.m., we were going to put T.J.'s fate in someone else's hands and we both decided it was best to try and see if we can work out something together."

Oshie agreed, saying that getting an agreement done beforehand was best for both sides despite being ready to have his fate determined by an independent mediator.

"I definitely wanted to get a deal done," Oshie said. "St. Louis is where I want to be and that's where I want to be for a long time. That was my No. 1 goal. But after reading the team's briefs and the briefs that the (NHLPA) and my agent put together, I was fine with the way it would have went (in arbitration), too. It's kind of a roll-of-the-dice depending on what the arbitrator wants to do, but my No. 1 goal was to get a long-term deal and solidify myself in the core group of this team for a long time."

After playing in only 49 games during a 2010-11 season that included some off-ice issues, the Blues gave Oshie a one-year deal to prove himself. Oshie proved worthy of a long-term commitment with a solid season that helped the Blues to the second-most points in franchise history this past season with 109. Adding a veteran coach in Ken Hitchcock also was a catalyst in Oshie's success.
(Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie (74) is coming off a season in which he set career highs in goals
(19), assists (35), points (54) and games played in a season (80).

"We certainly thought he had a good, productive season last year," Armstrong said of Oshie. "A lot of the things that we were looking for as far as consistency on the ice, the ability to play 80 games was there. I also think with the coaching change, I think he embraced the new coach and someone with Ken's experience obviously he became a valuable player for our franchise with the amount of ice time he got. He and David Backes mirror each other. We know what David means to our team, so I just felt knowing Ken was here and knowing what T.J. means to the team and how he's coached by Ken just made it a natural movement to get him signed for a longer term as possible and we were able to do that."

Add this contract to the recent signing of Perron, and the Blues now have a good portion of their core group under contract for the long term. Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk as well as center Patrik Berglund will be restricted free agents after the 2012-13 season, and are likely the next targets for long-term deals.

Oshie avoided surgery on both wrists (ECU tendons) that were ailing him last season and a minor knee injury suffered against the Kings stemming from a Dustin Brown hit in the playoffs. He talked about possibly skating this week and continues to train hard over the summer and expects to be ready for camp healthy.

The wrists are good. I didn't have surgery this summer like I thought I would," Oshie said. "The wrists ended up feeling pretty well. I haven't skated yet from a little knee injury I had against LA, but the conditioning's going well. The strength's improving. I'm training just like I did last summer. ... I'm already ahead of where I was at the start of last summer. It's going real well. I'm getting into possibly some skating this week to see how everything feels, see how the wrists feel. First and foremost, I want to get my strength and my weight up a couple pounds."

Oshie will continue to be part of that core group of players and is pleased to be included in the long-term growth of the franchise. In his career spanning four seasons, Oshie has 175 points, including 63 goals and 112 assists in 262 games.

"It means the world to me," Oshie said. "I always want to be the best team guy that I can be. To be included and to know that you're in the core group of the team that's been improving and has had a good year the year before, it means the world. You look at the core guys on this team, every one of those guys is a team-first guy. To be included in that group, I can't say enough about how proud I am to be there."

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