Jaden Schwartz’s agent Wade Arnott told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford that the sides are “significantly apart” regarding contract negotiations as of Wednesday.
Such news is disquieting enough out of context, but when you consider recent negotiations between GM Doug Armstrong and other Blues players, this report seems that much more unsettling.
(Rutherford notes that more details are expected to emerge, so this post may be updated with further information. Perhaps we’ll get a more concrete idea regarding how far the two parties are apart?)
Playing hard ball
Earlier this summer, Vladimir Sobotka raised eyebrows by signing a deal in the KHL over what his agent claims was a $300K difference. Armstrong didn’t seem concerned about re-signing Schwartz in mid-July, yet training camps rapidly approach with no deal.
It’s not as if this summer is just an isolated incident; the team went through protracted negotiations with star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo before inking him to a deal on Sep. 13, 2013.
On the other hand, there are a few reasons why it’s not fair to totally dismiss Armstrong’s tactics.
Methods to the madness
For one thing, Schwartz is a lot like Ryan Johansen in that he saw such a leap in 2013-14 that it makes for a negotiating conundrum.
He managed a 25-goal, 56-point campaign (ranking right behind David Backes’ 57 points for fourth in team scoring) after generating 16 points in 52 games between the 2012-13 and 2011-12 seasons. The 22-year-old’s reps can argue that he’ll only produce at a higher level next season and beyond while the Blues would likely contend that he needs to prove that he can replicate (or improve upon) that effort before getting a heftier deal.
Losing Sobotka is obviously far from ideal, but Armstrong could also argue that his methods work more often than not. Paul Stastny carries the highest cap hit at $7 million per season, but most of the Blues’ core players are playing at or or below market value (Pietrangelo’s $6.5 million looks like a bargain when you consider how much P.K. Subban cost, for example).
Actually, cap concerns bring up one other big sticking point. Cap Geek estimates the Blues’ cap space at around $2.78 million, and while Armstrong can move a contract or two around (23 roster spots are currently represented in that estimate), the bottom line is that St. Louis only has so much breathing room when it comes to locking Schwartz back up.
Considering the variables at hand, it’s easy to see why there’s a gulf between the two sides. Still, the question remains: how long will this drag on?