Monday, September 16, 2019

Edmundson admits contract year was tough, ready to improve his game

Despite being Stanley Cup champion, defenseman 
feels last season was "a roller coaster of a year"

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. -- Joel Edmundson wished last season personally would have gone better.

However, ending it with his first Stanley Cup championship was the ultimate way to cap off an inconsistent year for the 6-foot-4, 215-pound defenseman and Brandon, Manitoba native.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Joel Edmundson celebrated the Stanley Cup, his first in the NHL, with the Blues
when they defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games last season.

The summer had its range of emotions as well for the 26-year-old, going from winning the Cup to having to shift focus to getting a new contract.

Going about it as a restricted free agent for the third time and having an arbitrator decide Edmundson would get a modest $100,000 raise from $3 million to $3.1 million on a one-year contract was the reality that faces Edmundson as he enters the 2019-20 season.

When arbitration cases are actually heard, they never go well, but it is the reality of doing business. Edmundson and his camp asked for $4.2 million; the Blues countered with $2.3 million. The arbitrator awarded approximately a middle figure.

And as Edmundson spoke about it on Monday before the Blues played their first preseason game against the Dallas Stars in Texas, much like the Blues' championship season, it was time for Edmundson to park the past and look forward to new challenges.

"It would have been nice to get some term, but it's another year contract, another year in St. Louis. I'm happy to be back," Edmundson said. "Hopefully I can have a breakout year, a solid season and help this team win some games or hopefully half way through the year or near the end of the year, we can come to a long-term deal. But for now, it's just one year and all I can really say about it. I'm happy to be back."

Edmundson's one-year deal means he can't officially sign a potential new deal until Jan. 1. But for the first time in his career, he will be going into a contract season that will take him to unrestricted free agency status.

"It doesn't get any easier. It weighs on your mind," Edmundson said. "You have a bad game, you get down, but at the end of the day, it's a long season, so you've just got to battle through it. I'm happy to be here for another year. I can't complain about that. It's another year in the NHL. I love the team, I love what we've done here in the past couple of years. I'm looking forward to a good season here."

Edmundson is coming off of a, in his words, a roller coaster season; he finished with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 64 regular-season games, down from the career-high 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) the previous season in 69 games. In four seasons, Edmundson has 52 points (13 goals, 39 assists) in 269 games. He had seven points (one goal, six assists) in 22 playoff games last season.

But something didn't seem to be right with Edmundson's all-around game last season, and there were times when he was a healthy scratch as a result, including four times in the playoffs.

"There's lots of ups and downs last year, almost a roller coaster of a year," Edmundson said. "I think our team in general had a roller coaster of a year, but contract years, they're not easy. There's a lot weighing on your mind. You try not to think about them, but at the end of the day, it's your life, it's your job. It definitely creeps into the back of your mind. You've got to push all that noise aside and just play your game. 

"I definitely think I got away from a few things that I was doing well my first couple years. I think I realize that now. Tonight's going to be a good test where I stand now. I'm just looking forward to the start of the season, and I just want to bring my physicality back, just be a good guy in the dressing room and have fun."

Depending on what Edmundson would get in arbitration, there was a thought that the Blues would have no choice but to trade him if the cap hit was much higher than the $3.1 million he received. Not that they would have preferred that route, but it would have been more out of necessity that willingness.

But now with Edmundson in the fold at least for another year, or more if both sides had their way, finding that level of consistency from years past would suit both sides well.

"I was being more aggressive my first couple years and then last year, I might have taken a step back," Edmundson said. "I wasn't that big, scary guy out there, which I have no problem being. I like to play physical. That's part of my game. I just think I took a step back. When I'm playing physical and aggressive, that's when I play my best hockey. I was jumping up in the rush more often and just my all-around game complements it. I want to get back to that."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Joel Edmundson said last season had a lot of ups and 
downs; he wants to improve his game for 2019-20.

So does Blues coach Craig Berube, who feels Edmundson needs to simply be himself.

"I think just realizing what he is. When he's physical, hard to play against, a good defender, he's an important player," Berube said. "We're just looking for more consistency that way. He does good things in the offensive zone, but his game for us is being a real good defender, a big guy, hard to play against, physical, physicality. That wears down other teams, so a lot of that stuff we're looking for from him."

Edmundson has a chance to really set himself up for a profitable summer next year if he gets to where he believes it can go. But at least for the time being, business will be parked to the side and more focused geared towards the work on ice.

"Up until January, I don't think there will be any talks about that," Edmundson said. "Maybe around January or February there might be, but it's nothing that I'm worried about right now. If it comes across, we'll worry about it then. Right now, I'm just worried about my game and what the team does on the ice."

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