While there's still time for the St. Louis Blues and star winger T.J. Oshie to reach an agreement on a long-term contract, both sides are headed for an arbitration hearing Friday morning in Toronto.
"It's hard to say," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said Tuesday from Toronto. "My experience in the past is that we'll have a chance to sit down and discuss things at least one more time. But if it goes through the process, I'm not concerned."
Oshie, a restricted free agent, filed for arbitration July 5. The Blues recently locked up restricted free agent winger David Perron with a four-year, $15.25 million deal.
Oshie is coming off a one-year deal that paid him $2.35 million for a season that saw him tie David Backes for the team scoring lead with 19 goals and 54 points.
"I think they're going to be tied together, they came into the league at the same time," Armstrong said when asked if Oshie would receive a similar contract to Perron's. "Both guys bring a little different dimension to the game, but they're both valuable players and both players we'd like to have moving forward.
"We know that we have David for four years and hopefully a lot longer. We're hoping to have T.J. for one year or two years and hopefully a lot longer than that."
Arbitration can sometimes be an arduous process as the team, the player and his agent build cases to support their respective sides.
An independent arbitrator makes a ruling within 48 hours and the Blues have the right going into the hearing to ask for a one-year or two-year deal.
Complicating things this year is the Sept. 15 expiration of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association.
There are already hints of potential labor trouble, and one report suggested players might have to wait for 10 years to become unrestricted free agents.
That type of uncertainty could play into the plans for the Blues and for Oshie and agent Matt Oates.
"The certainty that we were dealing with three years ago isn't there any more as far as the system goes," Armstrong said. "There's a gap in what the league and the NHLPA sees as a fair deal. So we're sort of walking this tightrope -- both T.J. and the Blues -- without a safety net, (and) no one knowing the potential, whether its free agency after six years or free agency after 10 years. That has to weigh into our decision and I'm sure it's weighing into T.J.'s decision also."
Armstrong outlined what typically happens at an arbitration hearing.
"The player's responsibility is to go in there and try to represent the case that gets him the most amount of money," he said. "Our responsibility is to present a case where we get a value that we deem is appropriate. Our goal still is to negotiate a long-term settlement, but it doesn't' always work out the way you hope -- or probably the way T.J. hopes, either."
Oshie posted career highs in goals (19), assists (35), points (54), games played (80), shots (188) and penalty minutes (50).
The 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft turns 26 on Dec. 23 and Armstrong believes the star forward has defined himself as a player.
"He's been relatively consistent really from his rookie season to now," Armstrong said of Oshie, who has 63 goals and 175 points in 262 NHL games since 2008. "There's not a lot of variations in his point totals or variations in his game."
Armstrong knows that Oshie will remain an integral part of the franchise.
"We're comfortable doing multiple years or a shorter-term deal," Armstrong said ."I appreciate what T.J. brings to the team, but it has to make economic sense with the other players we have in our organization."
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.