(HockeySTL)-- The Blues and restricted free agent Jaden Schwartz had yet to agree to terms on a new contract as players reported to the first day of training camp on Thursday.
Schwartz, who did not report to camp with the rest of the players, is still without a new deal and is expected to miss the team’s first practice on Friday.
“We have had dialogue recently but I don’t know when he will be here,” said Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “He’s not here today and I don’t expect him here tomorrow.”
Armstrong said the negotiations are a process, but from now until Schwartz is re-signed he will remain silent on that process.
“It’s just going with the flow,” Armstrong said. “I think the thing that is best for the process is to keep that between myself and Jaden’s representative.”
“The next time I will talk publicly about Jaden is when we agree to a contract with him.”
Schwartz, 22, is the second Blues player in as many seasons to hold out at the beginning of training camp. Last season, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo missed the beginning of camp before ultimately signing a seven-year, $45.5 million deal.
“I think there are some similarities (to the Pietrangelo negotiations),” Armstrong admittied. “He’s not in training camp, obviously. But every player is his own independent contractor when it comes to negotiating deals and we have to find common ground that Jaden is comfortable with and that the St. Louis Blues are comfortable with.”
Schwartz is coming off of a 56-point season, but only has 132 NHL games under his belt. Armstrong would prefer a short-term deal that allows Schwartz ample time to prove himself before the Blues hand out a larger contract. It is believed that the two sides have agreed that a short-term bridge deal will work, but the monetary side of negotiations remains unsolved.
“There are a host of dynamics involved, from his performance on the ice to his character off the ice,” Armstrong said. “He’s got two checkmarks on both those areas and now we have to look at the collective bargaining agreement and use the system to put him where he should be based on his play, the rights he has and the rights the team has.”
The Blues have around $2.7 million in cap space remaining, but it’s believed Schwartz is searching for a contract worth closer to $3 million. The gap between the two sides is likely less than $1 million.
“We are spending to the cap and we are paying the players what the market dictates,” Armstrong said. “I think it is more just a belief in the system. There is certainly no question in the belief of the player, but it’s a belief in the system.”
Due to Schwartz’s absence, head coach Ken Hitchcock will have to alter his pre-camp plan for Schwartz, which was to pair him with Dmitrij Jaskin and have a third player slot in to observe chemistry between the players. Instead, the Blues will try another pair until Schwartz joins the camp.
“We are just going to now concentrate on the players that are here, try to find some synergy with the centermen that are in camp with some wingers and when Jaden reports, when we find out we have a contract done with him, he can work his way back into that group,” said Armstrong.
Hitchcock is also unworried about the Schwartz situation, explaining that it provides other opportunities to the coaching staff.
“He’s not going to retire, so you just move on,” Hitchcock said. “Once you start your first day of camp, you just focus on the guys who are here and let that play out and materialize as the training camp goes through. It gives us more room to work with younger players and see where they are at in their careers.”
Once Schwartz and the Blues agree on a contract, the forward will report to camp. However, until a deal is reached, Schwartz will not participate in practices or games.
“I try to look at it from the player’s perspective and hope he understands it from our perspective,” said Armstrong.