In a sign that the Blues aren’t expecting to reach a contract extension with forward T.J. Oshie before Friday’s arbitration case, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch relays that general manager Doug Armstrong is headed to Toronto on Tuesday three days in advance of the hearing.
“We’re going to Toronto to work with our counsel on preparing for the case,” Armstrong said Monday.
Oshie was one of 16 restricted free agents who filed for salary arbitration July 5, but since then seven players, including the Blues’ David Perron, have re-signed extensions with their current club.
The Blues and Oshie’s agent, Matt Oates, could still reach a resolution before Friday’s hearing, but are now down to just three days of potential negotiations before an arbitrator hears the case.
In a text message to the Post-Dispatch on Monday, Oates indicated that he was gearing up for Friday’s hearing but added that he was “open and looking to continue talking.”
Armstrong said Monday that the two sides have discussed a multi-year extension, ranging from four to six years. “But we just couldn’t find a compensation level that we were comfortable with and obviously he was comfortable with,” Armstrong said.
Under the current NHL collective bargaining agreement, the standard for a player to reach unrestricted free agency is 27 or seven years in the league. The agreement is set to expire on Sept. 15, but if the criteria for free agency remained the same, Oshie would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of a two-year deal.
The advantage of a two-year deal for the Blues is more time to bargain, because as of now NHL teams can discuss extensions with players on multiyear contracts beginning each July 1. If a player is on a one-year deal, the team must wait until the following Jan. 1. But Oshie would still have the leverage of becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the two-year deal.
On the flip side, early reports on the current labor negotiations say the NHL is seeking to increase the number of years a player needs to be an unrestricted free agent to 10. So if Oshie’s case goes to arbitration, regardless of whether he received a one- or two-year award, he could be facing more time as a restricted free agent, if the reports materialize.
“There’s a level of uncertainty in what the collective bargaining agreement is going to look like,” Armstrong said. “I have my own feelings of how the system is going to play itself out. So I can hedge my bets a certain way.
“We’re comfortable going short term (with Oshie) because we believe that we’re going to maintain his rights moving forward. A long-term deal is something we both wanted to discuss, but we’re comfortable going short-term without any hesitation.”