T.J. Oshie and the St. Louis Blues agreed on a 5-year, $20.875 million contract extension late Thursday night to avoid an arbitration hearing that Oshie should have avoided at all costs.
He didn't need a short-term contract with the uncertainty of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement hanging over it. He didn't need to sit in that room and hear his best season in the NHL — career highs in goals (19) and points (54) — torn apart by the Blues' bargaining team for the sake of business.
At 25 and coming off that season, it was a time to solidify his relationship with the Blues; not have it fractured with a nasty arbitration hearing. He needed to leverage that success into a long-term deal, and he did just that.
The Blues, for their part, did well here too, as GM Doug Armstrong wasn't convinced earlier this week that a deal could get done. From the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday:
"We've had conversations off and on," Armstrong said. "Both sides, if they have something that's going to change the other one's opinion, you talk. But when you come to an impasse, you just proceed with the arbitration process and I would say that's where we're at now. I think both sides understand the other side's position. We've negotiated in good faith, Matt Oates and us, but at this point we're hopeful it gets done, but we're proceeding like we're going to arbitration."
Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.net explained why the negotiation was a tough one:
It's well known the Blues are open to signing Oshie to a long-term contract but agreeing to the third and fourth years, or his UFA years, appears to be a challenge. I've said numerous times that $4.5 cap hit that belongs to Captain David Backes is likely serving as an internal cap the Blues won't go over. Backes, a two-time 30 goal scorer, has four years remaining on a five-year contract.
Oshie's hit arrives under that informal "cap" at $4.175 million per season; he made $2.35 million in his 1-year deal last season.
It's a great investment for the Blues, assuming Oshie continues his maturation under Coach Ken Hitchcock. Needless to say, there were times last season when it felt "as Oshie goes, so go the Blues."
He was that kind of difference-maker on the ice; and off the ice, he finally learned that balancing "the fun factor with the seriousness of the job is essential to reaching your potential," as Bourne hoped he would last year.