In the summer of 2018, Oskar Sundqvist knew he was going to have a battle to make the Blues and knew he was going to have to be better.
The hard work he put in continues to pay off.
Sundqvist not only made the Blues roster amid an abundance of forwards, but he then went out and had his best season ever and played an integral part in the Blues’ run to the Stanley Cup. On Sunday, he almost quadrupled his salary, signing a four-year deal with an annual average value of $2.75 million.
Sundqvist was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Wednesday. He’s the fourth Blues who was headed to arbitration to sign, leaving only defenseman Joel Edmundson, whose arbitration hearing is Aug. 4, and forward Ivan Barbashev, who is not eligible for arbitration, unsigned. General manager Doug Armstrong said the team would approach the offseason signings pretty much in order of their arbitration hearings, and that’s how it has gone. The Blues signed goalie Ville Husso, whose arbitration hearing was to have been Monday, to a one-year contract on Saturday.
Sundqvist, known for his defensive abilities when the Blues acquired him along with the draft pick that became Klim Kostin in the draft day trade with the Penguins for Ryan Reaves in 2017, blossomed offensively last season. He had 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in the regular season, which not only were career highs but easily eclipsed his career totals over the 70 NHL games he had played before: two goals and seven assists. His 14 goals tied him with Barbashev for fifth-most on the team. Sundqvist had his expected time on the penalty kill, but his offensive play was strong enough that at times during the season he found himself on the power play.
His contract for last season paid him $700,000, making him one of the most economical players on the team. The four-year contract bought out two years of unrestricted free agency for Sundqvist, 25. He, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly are the only Blues signed for the 2022-23 season.
In the playoffs, Sundqvist had four goals and five assists. He also served a one-game suspension in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final for a hit on Boston’s Matt Grzelcyk.
The Blues have $4.3 million left under the salary cap at the moment, though the number is probably closer to about $5.7 million since that number includes eight defensemen, two of whom won’t make the team. The Blues still have to sign Edmundson and Barbashev and Armstrong would like to leave himself a bit of a cushion in case of injuries. Teams are allowed to exceed the salary cap, within certain limits, in the offseason, but have to be compliant by the start of the season.