ST. LOUIS -- The last piece of the St. Louis Blues roster for the 2014-15 season stepped onto the Scottrade Center ice Monday. Now the Blues can focus on the task at hand, which is working toward winning a Stanley Cup.
Restricted free agent forward Jaden Schwartz agreed to terms Saturday on a two-year contract worth $4.7 million ($2.35 million average annual value).
Without Schwartz, who will get $2 million this season and $2.7 million in 2015-16, the Blues would have had a big void to fill after the 22-year-old had a breakout 2013-14 with 25 goals and 56 points.
Schwartz, who missed 10 days of training camp, said Monday he hopes to get caught up quickly.
"It was my first negotiation," he said. "My agent [Wade Arnott] does most of the work, but I'm involved a little bit. I learned a lot. I understand both sides have a job to do and both sides maybe have different views. But in the end we came to an agreement and I'm really happy to be here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
"I've been skating a lot. I got a power skating coach [Brent Bobyck] back home [in Saskatchewan], so I've been working with him a lot in the mornings and working out. … I stayed in the loop with what was going on here."
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said there was never a question 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 [or] 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 said the whole process was made easier by being able to lean on teammates who have been through similar situations, specifically close friend Alex Pietrangelo.
"He was a big part of it, but there were other guys too," Schwartz said. "I kept in touch with a lot of them. That helped out."
Pietrangelo, who went through it prior to last season before signing a seven-year, $45.5 million contract, was glad to help out.
"He knows a lot of what I went through last year since we've become pretty good friends," Pietrangelo said of Schwartz. "I was kind of able to help him through the process. 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.
"But 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."
Coach Ken Hitchcock will waste little time getting Schwartz acclimated to the surroundings and practices. He said he'll insert Schwartz into the Blues' final two preseason games, against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and Saturday.
"Whether we play [Schwartz] as a left wing or center, we wanted him to look at him at center ice [Monday] and we'll continue to do that through Wednesday," Hitchcock said. "If he can play that position, boy, that really adds another element to our team."
Each side discussed long- and short-term contracts. In the end they reached the conclusion the bridge contract was the best solution.
"The two-year contract is good for both parties," said Armstrong, who also said the Blues will not have to make any more moves to get under the salary cap. The Blues are $1.08 million under the cap, according to Capgeek.com.
"It gives Jaden the opportunity to establish himself in the NHL," Armstrong said. "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."
When Schwartz hit the ice Monday he was wearing No. 17, rather than the No. 9 he had worn, to honor his sister Mandi, who died in 2011 from acute myeloid leukemia.
"It means a lot. It had a big meaning in my life," Schwartz said. "Obviously my sister had a big impact on me. She wore 17 her whole life. I used to back in the day and kind of got away from it. When the opportunity came up it was a no-brainer. I kind of wanted it right away. I was lucky that they let me switch. I'm excited to wear it and it's going to be pretty nice for my family and me."
Now that the business part of the game is done, Schwartz said he can focus on hockey fully.
"We talked about longer, we talked about shorter [contracts]," he said. "Both sides agreed a two-year deal would be good for both sides. I'm happy with where I'm at and hopefully I can sign for more years down the road in St. Louis."