Blues and Stewart agree to new 2-year deal

News-DemocratJuly 19, 2013 

The St. Louis Blues and winger Chris Stewart avoided arbitration Friday when Stewart and the club agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $8.3 million.

Stewart made the announcement on his Twitter account. The arbitration case was scheduled to be heard Monday in Toronto.

"On the eve of my wedding I'm proud to announce that I will be spending the next 2 yrs in STL," Stewart said Friday through his Twitter handle, @CstewSTL25.

The Blues' leading scorer last season with 18 goals and 36 points in 48 games, Stewart will be paid $4.1 million next season and $4.2 million in 2014-15.

Stewart had one assist in six playoff games during the first-round loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

He is coming off a one-year deal worth $3 million and this new deal takes the 25-year-old Stewart to age 27, when he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

"The NHL by nature is a deadline league, trade deadline or draft or arbitration," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "Both sides were in discussions, we finally came to a common ground knowing we were going to have to board flights tonight and exchange briefs in the morning."

Armstrong is happy to have the deal done before arbitration.

"This allows Stewie to come in and know that everything's in place for two years, knowing that if he has a good year and the team has a good year we can start talking about an extension to negotiate," Armstrong said. "Because of the success our younger players have had, they're earning every dollar that they're making in my opinion. We're creeping very close to the upper limits of the cap."

Armstrong said the potentially stressful arbitration process is never easy. This time, it was avoided.

"I think both sides felt it was nice not to have to read each other's briefs," Armstrong said. "Obviously, Chris would have liked a little bit more and we would have liked a little less, so that means to me it's probably fair.

"For us to be a good team, we need Chris to be a good player."

Stewart joined the Blues in a February 2011 trade with Colorado, coming to St. Louis with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional second-round pick for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a conditional first-round pick.

In 153 games with the Blues, Stewart has 48 goals and 89 points. His career totals are 100 goals and 202 points in 319 games.

Has he truly defined himself as an NHL player?

"I think we'd probably like to smooth out the rough edges, as I'm sure Chris would," Armstrong said. "When you look at the totality of his time here, when he came here he played very well, the second season wasn't great and last season the point total was at the top of our team. I think consistency is the mark of a good team and then, ultimately, the mark of a very good player.

"We'd like all of our players to have less peaks and valleys and more of a steady game where we know what we're going to get every night."

After the deal with Stewart, Capgeek.com reports the Blues have approximately $8.8 million remaining under the salary cap to sign remaining restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, newly acquired winger Magnus Paajarvi and goalie Jake Allen.

Armstrong said he believes he can get all three players signed without having to make more trades to free up salary cap space.

"I think Petro has the opportunity to become an elite player and we are going to do what it is necessary to get him signed," Armstrong said. "We have certainly have more than enough space to get everyone in the fold."

That includes Paajarvi, the winger acquired from Edmonton in the recent trade for winger David Perron. Paajarvi made $900,000 last season with a cap hit of $1.525 million.

"I don't think this is going to be difficult based on the market and based on his situation," Armstrong said. "It's just a matter of getting together and getting something hammered out."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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