The St. Louis Blues have avoided arbitration with Joel Edmundson, agreeing to terms with the defenseman on a one-year $3MM deal. Edmundson had a hearing scheduled for tomorrow, but won’t need to make the trip to Toronto. Edmundson will still be a restricted free agent at the end of the deal, and can start negotiating a long-term extension in January.
The 25-year old defenseman has grown from a second-round lottery ticket into a key part of the Blues defense corps over the last few seasons, logging nearly 21 minutes a night in 2017-18. That growth led to a career-high 17 points last season in 69 games, while averaging more than two minutes a night on the penalty kill and seeing virtually no powerplay time. That kind of responsibility should continue for Edmundson, especially given the other aging left-handed options for St. Louis.
Jay Bouwmeester, who has been a rock for the Blues for so many years, saw his ice time dwindle and injuries hold him to just 35 games last season. Though he’s expected to be ready for training camp despite undergoing hip surgery just a few months ago, Bouwmeester can’t be a long-term option for the Blues as he enters the final year of his current contract. He’ll turn 35 before the season begins and should see his role diminished even further this season. Carl Gunnarsson played 63 games for the Blues last season but is easily replaceable and also entering the final season of his current deal. It seems unlikely that either will be retained next summer for anything more than a one-year deal, giving Edmundson and others like Vince Dunn the chance to really put their stamp on the team.
Edmundson especially could set himself up for a big payday with a good season. Next summer he’ll be just one year away from unrestricted free agency, meaning any long-term contract will be buying out nearly exclusively UFA seasons. Every time that happens the cap hit goes up, which is also likely the reason for a one-year deal being the settling point this time around. The Blues have just over $1MM left in cap space and still have Jordan Schmaltz to re-sign, meaning there wasn’t enough space to pay Edmundson what he’d get on a longer deal. It seems extremely likely then that he’ll be extended in early 2019, and take his place as the top left-handed option for the Blues.