(HockeySTL)-- Anyone who knows Jaden Schwartz knows that there are few things he’d rather be doing than playing hockey. That’s why when the formerly unsigned free agent was forced to sit out the first ten days of training camp due to a contract dispute, all he could think about was when he would be back on the ice.
“It was a tough process,” said Schwartz. “I wanted to be here more than anything. No one wants to miss part of camp. Both sides had a job to do, and I'm just happy to be here now and looking forward to getting back with the guys.”
The lengthy negotiations between the Blues and Schwartz came to a conclusion on Saturday after more than three months of negotiating. After more than three months of negotiating, the two parties agreed on a two-year, $4.7 million deal, allowing Schwartz to join his teammates on the ice on Monday.
“It was good; it was fun and was nice to see everyone at the rink this morning.” Schwartz said on Monday. “I was just really, really excited. I kind of had butterflies to finally get back here on the ice. Overall I thought it was good practice.
“I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”
Schwartz, who spent most of the practice on a line with Steve Ott and Maxim Lapierre, was thrown into the gauntlet in his first skate with the team since April. The drills were intense and because the team is in the latter stages of camp, Schwartz is not allotted time to ease back into the thick of things.
“This practice was way, way up there, even from two days ago,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. “But he looked awfully good.”
Schwartz will have a few more days to get up to speed before he sees game action, but with the forward already slotted into Thursday’s lineup, that time is very limited.
“I've been working hard at home to try and stay in the best shape I could,” Schwartz said. “I haven't been here for the whole camp and those guys might have an edge so I'm going to work as hard as I can the next few days, and I'm hoping that a few preseason games will help me get the legs back under me.”
Schwartz, who had plenty of extra time these past few months, said he left the negotiating process up to his agent, Wade Arnott. Schwartz was involved, but only for brief stints. With the rest of his time, Schwartz was commonly found working out on Saskatchewan ice with power-skating coach Brent Bobyck or playing a few rounds of golf. But even with all of the leisurely time, Schwartz was always envious of his teammates back in St. Louis and he was looking forward to the day he could rejoin them.
“I stayed in the loop with what was going on here and you know skated every morning just like the guys were here, but it's not quite the same,” admitted Schwartz. “You're not doing drills and you're not getting pushed quite as hard, but at the same time I felt like I put my work in and, you know, tried to stay up to speed as much as I could.”
This summer was the first time the 22-year-old had been exposed to the intimidating business side of hockey. Though he handled the process from afar, leaving the dirty work to his agent, Schwartz couldn’t help but wonder as the process was ongoing what the path would look like.
So, Schwartz reached out to teammate Alex Pietrangelo, who went through a very similar process last season, in hopes of a better understanding of what lied ahead in the process.
“He was a big part of it,” Schwartz said of Pietrangelo.
There were some strong differences between the Blues and Schwartz, but those obstacles became non-existent once a deal was reached.
“It was my first negotiation really so, like I said, my agent does most of the work but I'm involved a little bit and learned a lot,” said Schwartz. “I understand both sides have a job to do, and both side have maybe different views but you know in the end we came to an agreement.
General manager Doug Armstrong, like Schwartz, insisted that the disagreements during negotiations were just a part of the process.
“There was never any question on the year he had last year, on his character, his professionalism,” Armstrong said. “The disagreements weren’t with anything on the ice, they were with rights under the collective bargaining agreement, how we viewed it and how he viewed it. Neither side was wrong, but we both had to sort of take a while to understand each position before we could get something done.”
The forward, who is coming off of a 56-point, 25 goal season, could have held out for a longer term and perhaps more money, but lowered his asking price and agreed to a short-term deal in order to find a fit with the Blues before the regular-season began.
“We talked about longer, talked about shorter, and both sides agreed that a two year deal would be good for both sides,” said Schwartz. “I'm happy with where I'm at and hopefully I can sign for more years down the road in St. Louis”
Schwartz is expected to be a big part of any success the Blues have this year. The forward showed his importance down the stretch last season, posting 17 points in the final three months. According to Hitchcock, he is primed for an even better 2014-15 campaign.
“His speed, his tenacity (look incredible),” said Hitchcock. “He was arguably one of our best players in the last half of last year. He’s much stronger even than he was last year and he was strong enough then. He’s got way more maturity in his body now.”
The time is fast-approaching when Schwartz will become worried about his point totals. But for now, he’s just happy to back with his teammates.
“It was nice to see everyone,” Schwartz said. “I missed them a lot.”