ST. LOUIS - When the 2015-16 season came to an end, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong met the media for a year-end press conference and declared that signing Jaden Schwartz would be his No. 1 priority this summer.
It’s now the middle of July and Schwartz, a restricted free agent, still hasn’t signed a contract. In fact, he recently filed for a salary arbitration hearing, which has been set for next Wednesday (July 20) in Toronto.
What does this all really mean?
Do the Blues still want Schwartz to be part of the club? Does Schwartz still want to be a Blue?
The answer to both of those questions is yes. Absolutely.
“I think he fits right in with (Vladimir) Tarasenko, with (Robby) Fabbri, with (Colton) Parayko, with Alex Pietrangelo and Jake Allen,” Armstrong said. “These are guys you’ve drafted and developed so you would like to keep them here.”
So why, then, is a salary arbitration hearing needed?
Basically, the Blues have been unable to agree with Schwartz on the terms of a new contract, whether that is the length of the deal or the compensation. So Schwartz and his agent have decided to ask a neutral third-party to evaluate the situation and dictate the terms of the contract.
During the hearing, Schwartz’s agent will present a list of current NHL players (and their contracts) that he feels are comparable to what his client should earn. The Blues, meanwhile, will present their own comparable players and contracts. After hearing both arguments, the arbitrator will decide on a value that Schwartz should be paid.
Once that decision is made, both Schwartz and the Blues will have to live with it, for either one or two years, depending on what the Blues decide.
But there’s still a chance it won’t come to that. Both sides could agree to a new deal before the arbitration hearing, and that happens quite often actually.
This year, 25 NHL players were headed for a hearing as of July 5, but three have already signed contracts with their clubs more than week before the start of arbitration.
“There’s not a lot of concern,” Armstrong said. “Schwartz is a restricted free agent for three more years, we know he’s going to be a Blue for three more years. If we could have gotten (his contract) done on a long-term deal before free agency started, I would know exactly what we could have spent (in free agency), but that hasn’t happened.
“But I know (he’ll be) under contract,” Armstrong added. “I know this isn’t going to go into September.”