After failing to reach an agreement on a new contract extension, the Blues and restricted free agent, T.J. Oshie, are preparing for an arbitration hearing that will take place, if needed, on Friday. While both sides still hope that they can reach an agreement, they are moving forward as if the less preferred route will be the one necessary.
Oshie, who was tied for the team lead in total points (54) this past season, was expected to get a three or four year deal, but the sides have been unable to come to an agreement on the salary number which led to Oshie recently filing for arbitration. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch, the Blues and Oshie will still attempt to reach an agreement by Friday, but the Blues do not appear to be optimistic about their chances.
In arbitration, both parties will present their case to a judge (arbitrator) who will review the case and will decide on a proper compensation for the player. There are however, several downsides to this scenario. It is said arbitration is where 'feelings get hurt' as the team tries to get the monetary number lowered. Arbitration also eliminates the possibility of a long-term deal as the team gets to decide on either a one-year or a two-year deal.
Oshie, 25, is two seasons away from reaching unrestricted free agent status, as any player who has spent seven seasons in the NHL, or is 27 years of age is declared 'unrestricted'. If the case goes to arbitration and the Blues choose a one-year deal, Oshie will remain a restricted-free agent when his contract expires next season. However, the Blues could elect to take a risk of signing Oshie to a two-year deal, and hope that the new CBA, which is being negotiated, will raise the age of reaching 'unrestricted' status higher than 27, a proposal that appears to be popular.
A one-year deal certainly seems to be the wiser of the choices, but it is also not risk free as the sides could be in the same position a year from now, and Oshie could raise his asking price, or hold out for another arbitration case that deals a short-term deal in hopes of receiving greater compensation at a later date via free agency.
Stating the obvious, it is in the Blues' best interest to lock up Oshie before Friday, but this does not appear to be a likely scenario. Oshie had the best season of his career in 2011-12, reaching the 50 point mark for the first time in his four NHL seasons. He had 19 goals and 35 assists (54 points) and averaged 19 minutes, 32 seconds of ice time per game. This past season was also the first time he has played 80 games in a single season.
The Blues and Oshie both agree that he needs to be compensated for proving himself worthy of a big role on the team, but it appears that the level of compensation is not agreeable between the two parties. Obviously arbitration is not the ideal route for either side, but one thing is certain, barring a trade, Oshie will remain a Blue next season.