ST. LOUIS -- T.J. Oshie's heart belongs in St. Louis. That's why he was busy talking about a long-term contract Friday instead of stating his case to an arbitrator.
The St. Louis Blues and Oshie avoided an arbitration hearing Friday after agreeing to a five-year, $20.875 million contract late Thursday. Oshie's contract calls for him to make $3.375 million for the upcoming season, $4 million in 2013-14 and $4.5 million in each of the final three seasons.
A 2005 first-round pick by the Blues, the 25-year-old set career-highs in goals (19), assists (35), points (54) and games played (80). His 54 points were tied for the team lead this past season.
"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 arbitration hearing had been scheduled for 10 a.m. ET on Friday, with both sides prepared to present their respective cases for a contract, which either would be a one- or two-year deal of the team's choice. However, a deal between the two sides at some point leading up to the hearing always seemed like the most likely 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. (CT) 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."
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Oshie agreed, saying that getting an agreement done before the hearing 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 PA [Players' Association] 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."
He played just 49 games in 2010-11 because of a wrist injury as well as off-ice issues. After the season, the Blues gave him only a one-year deal hoping he would prove himself worthy of a long-term pact. He did just that in 2011-12, helping the Blues to the second-most points in franchise history with 109. Adding veteran coach Ken Hitchcock also was a catalyst in Oshie's success.
"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."
Oshie was limited in the playoffs by a knee injury that has slowed his offseason workouts, but he said he feels good and expects to get on the ice soon.
"The wrists are good," he said. "I didn't have surgery this summer like I thought I would. The wrists ended up feeling pretty well. I haven't skated yet from a little knee injury I had against L.A., 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."
Add Oshie's contract to the recent signing of David Perron to a four-year deal, and the Blues now have a good portion of their core group under contract for the long term. Defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk and center Patrik Berglund will be restricted free agents after the 2012-13 season and likely are the next targets for long-term deals.
Oshie will continue to be part of that core group and is pleased to be included in the long-term growth of the franchise.
"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."