The St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a look at “bridge contracts,” as they’re often called, referencing the bridge between their entry-level contracts and third, potentially larger contract. Aside from creating an environment in which players stayed motivated early in their career, they have also allowed the Blues in a
financially unstable period of ownership to evaluate players and build a roster that the club hoped could be a contender.
“Each case is separate and you have to look at them individually,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. For “the (Steve) Stamkos and the (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin, the bridge contract is not necessary. But I think for a lot of players coming out of their entry-level deal, there’s another layer that they need to add to their game before they really define what they are. If you can do a shorter-term contract in those instances, you get more information.”
In the case of T.J. Oshie and David Perron, the short-term extensions gave the Blues enough time to feel safe the players had matured into regulars. After finishing his entry-level contract and playing out a one-year, $2.35 million deal, Oshie recently signed a five-year pact worth close to $21 million. Perron, meanwhile, played out a two-year, $4.3 million deal before agreeing to a four-year, $15.25 million extension this offseason.
“Coming off your (entry-level) contract, everyone wants that long-term deal, everyone wants that big deal,” Oshie said last week. “But you know, we didn’t necessarily have the guys that were controlling the game or taking over like some players in the league, where you see some of the marquee guys are getting big (contracts) right away.
“So … it was great for us, great to kind of play under pressure and prove ourselves, not only to management or to the team, but to ourselves, that we could get ourselves to that next level. I think that ‘prove yourself contract’ really jolted me last summer in my training and that’s carried over.”
Armstrong noted: “When you’re very young and you get $60, $70, $80 million, it’s hard to deal with not only the expectations on the ice, but handling it off the ice. My belief is that a two- or three-year bridge contract is a real good feeder into their career.”
Armstrong admitted, however, that the stronger the Blues become as a team, there perhaps will be fewer bridge deals.
“It has gone according to plan with those bridge contracts,” he said. “Some players in the future, we might not have to go (through) the same process. We might go shorter; we might go longer.
“But (having) a team that wasn’t having success on the ice — shorter-term contracts were necessary. Now if we can put together three or four solid years, then I think that those bridge contracts aren’t quite as important as they are when a team is not successful.”
Without those deals, the Blues wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now: comfortable with the players they’ve signed to long-term deals and well under the salary cap, giving the team an opportunity to keep its core in the organization.
“With both David (Backes) and T.J., those are two players that we’ve spent quite a bit of time cultivating and … it was important for our organization to keep these players through the prime of their careers,” Armstrong said. “Both of these players, especially David Perron at such a young age coming into the league, he’ll be right in the middle of his prime years when his contract is up in four years. T.J. Oshie is a little older and signed up for a longer time.
“It’s important to have these guys that we believe can be a large part of the solution signed up.”