T.J. Oshie Excelling, Playing for a New Contract
Over the summer the St. Louis Blues gave T.J. Oshie a new one-year, $2.35 million contract. At the time, it was unclear if Oshie would be able to put the concerns about him off the ice behind him and be the player fans think he could be. He showed sparks of greatness but injuries, and the previously mentioned issues away from the rink, were a growing concern. As a result, the organization played it safe and offered Oshie a contract that all but directly said "prove yourself" in the fine print. To date, Oshie has gone above and beyond to prove himself and has fans wondering if/when the club will extend him. It's amazing what a little focus, determination and a new incentive can do to a player. Arguably, T.J. Oshie has been the team's best two-way forward this season and has recently taken it upon himself to carry the club's offense. Following their match against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night, Oshie has an impressive 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 32 games. Barring any missed time, Oshie is well on his way to besting his career-high in goals (18) and could topple his high in points (48). All season long, Oshie has been in hot pursuit of the puck, harassing whichever opponent carries it until they give it up. Oshie has been tracking the puck all over the ice and never pauses his stride - something we used to see a bit too often in previous years. The arrival of Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis only improved Oshie's, and the team's, overall work ethic and has transformed Oshie into an even better forward than we have seen during his time with the Blues over the last few seasons. Hitchcock has brought out the best in his players and brought more organization to a roster full of players all going their own direction under Davis Payne. With Oshie playing the best we have seen so far in his career, the question looms - should the Blues offer him a new contract and if so, when? First, it's important not to be too hasty when offering a thriving forward a new contract. It'd be easy to give Oshie a healthy offer now as to date he has done everything to deserve one. However, there's still a lot of hockey left in the 2011-12 season and it'd be wise to evaluate Oshie's work across a full season than just a third of one. The obvious concern is that Oshie could suffer a serious injury (knock on wood) and the Blues would suddenly be on the hook for his contract. To go along with that, the St. Louis ownership is still not fully resolved as of the date of this article. Until it is resolved and in place, the Blues probably won't be handing out any new contracts let alone any sizable ones. With the first point in mind, the team must wonder what it will take to keep Oshie in their mix. If he continues at this pace all season long, you can bet that other teams outside of the St. Louis area will be interested which could potentially drive the price on retaining Oshie up. Ever since his arrival in the NHL, Oshie has been a favorite among fans in St. Louis. Big hits paired with nifty goals caused Oshie to become the most iconic player on the roster. At times, this label was accurate but other times Oshie would be caught loafing on some of his shifts, failing to give a complete effort (same could be said for a majority of the roster). Now, with his renewed hustle, determination and focus, Oshie is doing more than enough to live up to the label as fan favorite and has done his best to be a deserving face of the franchise. Has he earned a multiple year deal? My personal opinion? I'd love to see Oshie remain with the Blues. At this time, he's a dynamic two-way forward that works harder than most of the players in the league. However, while I'd like to see him brought back with a new deal, say of the three-year variety, I wouldn't go out of my way to get it done until the ownership is stable and the year has wrapped. An extension during the year is a dangerous not only because there's no telling how the rest of the year will end up but it's also an effective way to kill a player's motivation by removing his incentive. With any luck, Oshie will finish out 2011-12 strong and the team's new ownership will give him a new contract that keeps him in the area for years to come.