Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blues extend qualifying offer to Oshie, not D'Agostini

Bishop, Reaves also qualified by Monday's deadline

ST. LOUIS -- There was some unfinished business that the Blues needed to attend to regarding their impending restricted free agents. And at the conclusion of Monday's deadline to extend qualifying offers to potential RFA's, there was both surprise and expected results at the same time.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to forwards T.J. Oshie and Ryan Reaves as well as goalie Ben Bishop. Not a surprise there.

But what may have come as surprising news is that there was no qualifying offer extended to forward Matt D'Agostini, meaning the Blues' winger can become an unrestricted free agent on Friday when the July 1 free agent shopping season opens for business if D'Agostini's not resigned prior to then.

D'Agostini, who set career highs in goals (21) and points (46) a season ago, made $550,000 last season and is salary arbitration eligible, which is something the Blues are balking at, thus the reasoning behind not extending a qualifying offer.

Matt D'Agostini set career highs in goals (21)
and points (46) last season.  (Getty Images)

If a third party were involved, D'Agostini could command upwards of four times what he made last season or more.

The Blues, D'Agostini and his agent Steve Bartlett have held talks and will continue to do so with the interpretation the 24-year-old could still very well wind up in a Blues uniform this season, but the club is taking a risk allowing D'Agostini to hit the open market.

"We had good dialogue leading up to making this decision," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Arbitration is very inflationary. The comparable group (of players to D'Agostini) is a small group. We felt that it was best to negotiate with a larger pool of players, without the backdrop of arbitration."

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to the aforementioned three, thus the club holds onto their rights while continuing negotiations with all three. They each become restricted free agents on Friday and can receive offer sheets from other clubs if not signed beforehand.

Players that earned less than $660,000 must receive an offer for 110 percent of their previous salary, which applies to Reaves, who made $500,000 a season ago. Players earning up to $1 million must receive an offer for 105 percent of their salary, which applies to both Oshie and Bishop, who both made $850,000 last season in base salary. Those players making over $1 million get an offer of 100 percent.

Armstrong said the club continues to speak with the restricted free agents, particularly Oshie and his camp but nothing's imminent. Of the three qualified Monday, Oshie is the only player who holds arbitration rights.

"There's continual dialogue, but not to the point where there's comfort with the other side's position," Armstrong said. "I'm very comfortable where we're at with T.J. ... You get deals done when everybody feels comfortable. I'm very comfortable that T.J. Oshie is going to be a St. Louis Blue, very comfortable we'll find common ground there."

As for D'Agostini, his previous career best numbers were in 2008-09 with Montreal, when he tallied 12 goals and 25 points. The Blues acquired him in a trade from the Canadiens for Aaron Palushaj on March 2, 2010 and feel he still fits into the upcoming season's plans.

"We still think he's a valuable NHL player, and we'd like to continue to talk to him, but not with the backdrop of arbitration," Armstrong insisted. "We're going to continue to talk and hopefully he'll still be a Blue."

Something echoed by Bartlett.

"I think we're still working on it in good faith," Bartlett said. "Our first hope is to get something done (with the Blues). We had several good conversations, and we'll continue to have good conversations."

But the Blues are gambling by giving D'Agostini the choice to walk without compensation should the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native choose to do so.

"If we can't find a common ground (with D'Agostini), there are options we can explore," Armstrong said. "We think that there's a large group of players available on July 1 that represent what we're looking for."

D'Agostini, if qualified, could have requested salary arbitration, with a deadline of July 5.

"Doug said they don't want to throw it to arbitrator ... they want to negotiate something that everyone feels was a mutual decision, not a third party," Bartlett said. "I know more and more teams are less anxious to have an arbitrator decide salary.

"I'm not looking at it like talks have blown up, or that we're not trying to get a deal here. They had to make a decision whether to give me the option of arbitration, and they decided they didn't want to do that."

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