Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blues, Schwartz come to terms on two-year contract

2010 first round pick will make $4.7 million 
($2 million in 2014-15, $2.7 million in 2015-16)

ST. LOUIS -- The last piece to the Blues' puzzle moving forward for the 2014-15 season will be on the ice with the remainder of his teammates on Monday.

Jaden Schwartz, the last Blue without a contract, came to terms with the team on a two-year contract worth $4.7 million ($2.35 million average annual value). Schwartz will get $2 million this season and $2.7 million in 2015-16. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz will be back on the ice Monday after ending
his 10-day absence from training camp with new two-year

The 22-year-old Schwartz, who had 25 goals and 56 points in the final year of his entry-level contract, was without a contract as training camp opened and had been absent from camp, where he's missed the first 10 days.

But Schwartz and his agent (Wade Arnott) along with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong made strong progress towards a new contract in the past week, and the bridge term was the way to go.

"The two-year contract is good for both parties," Armstrong said. "It gives Jaden the opportunity to establish himself in the NHL. Obviously he had a great season last year, 25 goals and I think he was second on our team in scoring. He really had an excellent second season. 

"In two years, he'll have four years under his belt and we'll be able to talk about something with some greater term and some more certainty. I think it's a really good deal, term and financially for both sides."

There was never a question of whether Schwartz would sign a contract. The question was when. 

"When you're projecting term on any player, it's easier to do when they have a longer resume," Armstrong said. "Jaden had a great year last year. I think if he's a three-time 25-goal scorer, he's going to be paid at a much different rate than we're paying him at now. But we just want to make sure when he gets there, we're ready to pay him that type of compensation. We just want to make sure that's the consistent player we're going to get moving forward. I think these bridge deals are only done to allow both sides to get comfortable where players fit into the league.

"In Jaden's case, it was never any question on the year he had last year. It was never any question on his character, on his professionalism. This was basically a contract that got done off the collective bargaining agreement, the way we viewed it and the way he viewed it and his representative. Neither side was wrong in their position, but we both had to take a little while to understand each position before we could get something done." 

Schwartz arrived in St. Louis on Saturday night and will be on the ice Monday when camp resumes after an off-day on Sunday. 

Alex Pietrangelo, Schwartz's closest friend on the team, knows a thing or two about what his friend and teammate went through having done through it himself prior to the start of camp last season. In the end, Pietrangelo signed a seven-year contract worth $45.5 million and was glad to offer some help and advice for Schwartz through this process.

"He knows a lot of what I went through last year since we've become pretty good friends," Pietrangelo said. "I was kind of able to help him through the process. My dad spoke to his dad, too, just because they got to know each other. If I could just become another ear for him, or to have someone to talk to, to get some sort of opinions of things, obviously I was glad to help. He's here now for the next few years and we don't have to worry about it.

"Ultimately it comes down to his decision, but if I was able to provide some sort of guidance to calm him down or to give a little insight on where I think things stand, that's only going to benefit him. I was happy to help him out through that."

With Schwartz in the fold, the Blues are roughly $1 million under the cap according to Armstrong and no forthcoming moves need to be made in order to fit under the salary cap.

So from a financial standpoint, the Blues are in good shape. But from a catch-up standpoint on the ice, Schwartz will be playing the role of catch-up with three preseason games left after the Blues played the Dallas Stars Saturday night in Kansas City.

"Training camp's a very important part of the season," Armstrong said. "If it wasn't important, we'd have everyone start Monday. 

"I think (Schwartz is) going to be behind the rest of the group, but the good thing is he's been training and he's young so I think he'll be able to physically catch up with it. I think it's his timing. We have new players on the team that he doesn't know. He's going to have to take a crash course in understanding the way they play and how he can complement what they need and they can complement what he needs. I wish he was obviously here 10 days ago, but that's water under the bridge now and we'll get him here Monday. We have three games left and (coach) Ken (Hitchcock) will find out when he's ready to play and hopefully he'll get in a couple of those games."

The Blues will do all they can to help Schwartz, who will wear No. 17 this season to honor his sister Mandi (who passed away after a two-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia), blend in and get caught up to speed.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz will switch to No. 17 this season to honor his sister Mandi
after agreeing to a two-year contract Saturday.

"He's stayed in shape, but it's never easy when the guys are this close to playing full games," Pietrangelo said. "He's 10 days behind and obviously like any of us, it takes a couple days of training camp to get back to top speed or full speed to be where we're at. Certainly I don't think he's going to be any different. It'll take him a couple days, but once he gets out there and gets to the pace of where we're all at, I think he's going to be fine. He's such an important part of this team. I don't think anyone's too worried about him being able to adjust.

"I think all the guys are excited to have him back. He's an important part of the team on the ice. He obviously contributes to a number of different areas. Everyone's excited to have him back. He's such a great guy to have in the room. To add another important piece to the puzzle from last year, it's always a good feeling. I know he's certainly excited to get back with all the guys. We're obviously excited to have him back."

Pietrangelo, who picked Schwartz up from the airport Saturday night, not only has his friend back in the fold but also a roommate. Schwartz has been staying at Pietrangelo's residence, but the Blues' defenseman jokingly had a stern message:

"I should kick him to the curb now," Pietrangelo said. "The first thing he wanted to know was how to get into my house. He can afford his own place now.

"If I can help him out, that's fine, but he's got 30 days and then I'm locking the door."

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