The Blues announced early Thursday morning a contract extension for forward T.J. Oshie. The initial word had many die-hard St. Louis hockey fans thrilled about the return of their most energetic and exciting young forward. But, after hearing of what the extension consisted of, a one-year $2.35 million deal, many were quick to question why the Blues didn’t add more to the pact.
The answer to all of the questions is simple: Oshie, who has yet to play a full season up to his potential, still has to prove himself not only to the National Hockey League, but to team president John Davidson, general manager Doug Armstrong, and the rest of the Blues organization.
The deal will give Oshie time to prove he’s worthy of the Blues’ top dollar, as the organization wasn’t quite willing to make a larger investment in the fourth-year forward.
Oshie, who held arbitration rights, will be paid slightly more for one season annually than forwards Patrik Berglund ($2.25 million) and David Perron ($2.15 million), who remain on their two-year contracts.
Oshie, 24, who missed significant time in two of his first three seasons due to injury, will need to perform at his highest level yet for the Blues to cash in on him 12 months from now.
“It’s a contract that I believe is right in a lot of ways,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “With the arbitration rights he had, he obviously had different rights than some of the other players that we’ve negotiated with to this point.
“But I think coming off the (ankle) injury, it’s important that T.J. comes in and establishes himself with a healthy season and contributes at a 75-plus game mark. Then we’ll move on to looking at a longer-term deal after that.”
In 182 career games with the Blues, Oshie has tallied 121 points, and said he was grateful that a deal was finalized.
“I couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else,” Oshie told the Post-Dispatch.
But, it has yet to be seen what Oshie can do when 100-percent healthy for an entire 82-game season.
“I think there’s more to spell out,” Oshie said. “I think I’ve done pretty well in the defensive zone. I think I need to excel in the offensive zone. I think that comes with a lot of video, a lot of realizing when you can and can’t make plays and just building chemistry with the players.”
Oshie has yet to eclipse 50 points in his three years in the league, and his career-best 18 goals and 30 assists came in his lone full season (2009-10). In 49 games in 2010-11, Oshie recorded just 12 goals and 22 assists, missing 31 games after breaking his ankle, which eventually required surgery, on Nov. 10 in Columbus.
Armstrong believes Oshie is “certainly a top nine NHL forward,” and is optimistic about Oshie becoming a top six or top three forward. Typically, a top six forward is a consistent 60-to-65 plus point player, while a top three forward is a 70-to-75 plus point player.
Early Thursday morning, Matt Oates, Oshie’s agent called him, asking if him if he “wanted to go for more (money).”
Oshie responded by saying, “That’s plenty, that’s all I need.”
Less than 24 hours after signing Oshie, the Blues agreed to terms on a two-year, $3.3 million deal with fellow forward Matt D’Agostini, eliminating him from free agency. D’Agostini will earn $1.5 million in 2011-12 and $1.8 million in 2012-13.
“Matt had a solid year for us last season,” Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch. “We look forward to his continued growth as a Blue and in this league.”
D’Agostini, who was acquired via trade with Montreal for Aaron Palushaj during the 2009-10 season, posted a career-high 21 goals and 46 points last season for the Note.
The Blues payroll for the upcoming season is $44, 758, 332, according to a source.