The St. Louis Blues avoided arbitration with Jaden Schwartz and locked the 24-year-old winger up to a five-year, $26.75-million deal. Schwartz has twice flirted with 30 goals and looks like a big-time player, and key piece of the future, for the Blues.
Mark Scheifele’s eight-year, $49-million contract was a great deal for the Winnipeg Jets, as they locked up a 23-year-old could-be star to a long-term deal that will pay him $6.125 million per season. It came one season removed from Scheifele nearly cracking the 30-goal mark, too.
Schwartz is only one year older than Scheifele, 24, and the new contract means he’s inked a deal worth an average of $775,000 less per season. This comes after Schwartz has twice flirted with the 30-goal mark and looks to step into a bigger role with the Blues this upcoming season. And if this deal looks good right now, on the day its signed, it’s going to look even better as Schwartz really starts to hit his stride.
“He’s part of that core we have moving forward,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said in a release. “Schwartz and (Vladimir) Tarasenko, Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Jake Allen — we’re trying to build around these guys. Having Schwartz wrapped up in that group, we know we now have a core that we can build around and try to win a championship around.”
The past season was a tough one for Schwartz and it started in about the worst possible way. Just weeks into the campaign, Schwartz fractured his ankle — a sign of things to come for the Blues — and was forced to miss the next 49 games. When he came back, he got his feet under him quickly and finished the campaign with a respectable eight goals and 22 points in 33 games.
Schwartz really came to play in the post-season, too. He finished second in scoring with four goals and 14 points in 20 games and he logged the fifth-most ice time of any forward on the team — the third-most of players who will be in St. Louis next season, though.
But the deal is more about where Schwartz’s ceiling is, not what he went through and what he produced this past season. It may sound absurd, but there’s reason to believe that Schwartz’s ceiling could realistically be that of a 35-goal scorer.
Consider that in his sophomore season, Schwartz notched 25 goals and 56 points in 80 games while playing a second-line role in St. Louis. For an encore, Schwartz came back with 28 goals and 63 points in 75 games. Is there any doubt he would have cracked 30 goals dad he been healthy the whole campaign? Not really.
And with the changes going on in St. Louis, with David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of town, there’s going to be more chances for Schwartz to be the triggerman and more chances for him to light the lamp. That should have red lights going off in the brains of Blues fans and be nightmare fuel for Central Division goaltenders.
With Schwartz locked up, the Blues now have a big chunk of their core wrapped up until 2019-20, including Allen, Tarasenko and Pietrangelo. And with Parayko and Fabbri hitting restricted free agency in the next couple of seasons, they’re sure to be locked up long-term, as well.
After getting through the first round and to the Western Conference final this past season, the future looks bright in St. Louis.
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