Given how pear-shaped things went with Vladimir Sobotka, you couldn’t blame St. Louis fans for worrying about the status of the club’s other key unsigned RFA, forward Jaden Schwartz.
On Wednesday, GM Doug Armstrong tried to alleviate potential concerns.
“We’re in the initial process,” Armstrong said, via a live chat through the Post-Dispatch. “I had a conversation with Jaden’s agent yesterday and we’re working towards getting him signed.
“This could take some time but we’re comfortable that he will be at training camp.”
Schwartz, 22, is coming off a breakout campaign with St. Louis, finishing third on the team with a career-high 25 goals while averaging 17:32 TOI per game. The former first-round pick racked up 56 points and established himself as a valuable penalty killer, leading the team with three shorthanded markers.
He’s obviously an important part of the Blues’ future but, as history shows, St. Louis tends to play hardball with certain RFAs. In May, Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch there was no urgency to get deals done for Sobotka, Schwartz or Patrick Berglund, alluding to last year’s lengthy negotiation with Alex Pietrangelo (which led to Petro missing the start of training camp).
Then, in a twist, Armstrong flipped the script by inking Berglund to a three-year, $11 million pact in late June.
And then came the Sobotka situation.
Last week, Sobotka shocked everyone by inking in the KHL after the Blues filed for club-elected salary arbitration. Armstrong immediately set about explaining St. Louis’ offers, explaining the Blues tabled a multi-year deal (three, four, or five years, “at [Sobotka’s] choice”) at “north of $3 million” per season. The 27-year-old restricted free agent was then offered a one-year deal at $2.7 million per, or a two-year deal at $3 million per.
“Those haven’t got it done to this point,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong proceeded to explain he was holding out hope Sobotka would return to the club, and said he still intended to be at the arbitration hearing on July 21.
To give an idea of how tight negotiations were on this, consider what Sobotka’s agent — ex-NHLer Petr Svoboda — had to say in the aftermath.
“[Blues general manager Doug Armstrong] started at $2.4 million (for one season) and he came up to $2.7 million, so he gave me his best number,” Svoboda told the Post-Dispatch. “We were at one year, $3 million.
“Basically it was over $300,000. There was no room for negotiation. It was one year at $2.7 (million) — take it.”
So yeah. Could be a long summer for Schwartz.