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The case for Jaden Schwartz

The Blues’ top pending UFA may be the toughest to sign.

St Louis Blues v Colorado Avalanche - Game One Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Since the start of the 2021 season, fans have had an eye on the Blues’ contract talks with left winger Jaden Schwartz. A 2010 first round draft pick (14th overall), Schwartz has become one of the longest standing members of the Blues along with Vladimir Tarasenko.

As the season went forward, it looked increasingly like the team and Schwartz would wait until the offseason to discuss terms of any new deal. Schwartz’s current contract was a five year deal with an AAV of $5,350,000; the last year saw Schwartz paid an actual salary of $4 million, the lowest of the deal.

Schwartz had the leverage in 2016 to sign a deal of that term and salary coming off of an injury shortened season that still saw him put up 8 goals and 14 assists. The real leverage that year came from the postseason; Schwartz put up four goals and 10 assists in 20 playoff games. The year before the 2015-2016 season, Schwartz had 28 goals and 35 assists in 62 games played.

It’s clear why Schwartz got his deal.

You may have noticed my mention of an injury that significantly shortened Schwartz’s season in 2015-2016. Injuries have shortened every season since then. It hasn’t necessarily hindered Schwartz’s production - his 22 goals and 35 assists in 2019-2020 was good for second on the team in goals and fourth in points.

This is the quandary with Schwartz. He has many seasons in his recent past where his contract terms are worth it, but will Doug Armstrong be willing to sign a 28 year old to a long term deal at - presumably - a slight raise when that 28 year old is injury prone? Obviously it’s not Schwartz’s fault he gets hurt, and a GM wants to base a contract on expected production. Schwartz still produces despite time missed.

There’re two gambles to be made here - Armstrong can assume Schwartz gets injured and misses time, and that is what it is, but he still produces - or he did with the exception of this last season. This past season Schwartz only scored 8 goals and 13 assists... which is similar to the year before he signed his last contract. Armstrong can also gamble that Schwartz has a healthy year, and his production becomes a larger asset for the Blues.

Armstrong knows what he gets with Schwartz. It’s also hard to imagine that other teams won’t be competing for his talents, and the Blues’ cap situation is complicated.

The biggest argument for Schwartz on top of his production is how the Blues play without him in the lineup.

This season, Schwartz missed from February 13th to March 19th. the Blues were 6-6-3. In 2018-2019, Schwartz missed November 17th to December 11th. The Blues went 3-7-1 without Schwartz during that stretch. For 2017-2018, Schwartz missed from December 10th through January 24th. The Blues were 11-11-1 through that time, losing out on valuable points in an excruciatingly tight playoff race. They’d ultimately miss the playoffs by just a point.

When Schwartz isn’t in the lineup, the Blues aren’t as consistently as strong of a team. If Armstrong doesn’t re-sign him and he signs elsewhere, his absence on the left side will be another difficult gap for the team to fill.