By Patrick Kelly
The No. 1 thing that has been on any St. Louis Blues fans’ mind since they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, is the fate of Alex Pietrangelo. The 30-year-old defenseman becomes an unrestricted free agent October 9 with the season being moved around. Although the Blues traded goaltender Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens and Vladimir Tarasenko is on long-term IR after undergoing yet another shoulder surgery, it was reported Friday night that contract talks have broken off between the team and Pietrangelo.
The news was first reported when TSN’s Darren Dreger stated “sources say contract talks between the St. Louis Blues and Alex Pietrangelo have broken off. The team has advised Pietrangelo to pursue unrestricted free agency.” Shortly after that, Blues writer for The Athletic Jeremy Rutherford reported that he had spoken to Pietrangelo and “he believes he’s headed to the market, but he has not ruled out a deal with the Blues.”
This was followed by later reports that the current offer was $7.7 million AAV even though 590’s own Andy Strickland reported “the numbers being tossed around are significantly higher than what is being reported.” For a lot of fans, this was the worst news they could hear, that their captain, the first player to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, might very well be testing the free-agent market. This is especially puzzling for some because they assumed the Allen trade was made to creat space for Pietrangelo. Although it was disappointing for a lot of fans to think Pietrangelo could be in a different uniform next year, looking down the road long term, this may be the best move for the Blues.
To start with, it doesn’t appear like the Allen trade was made with Pietrangelo in mind. As Strickland said on the air when the trade was made, “This is not to clear space for Pietrangelo.” It seems that trade was made to make a spot for Ville Husso, who has been the Blues’ third goalie for quite some time and is on a one-way contract next year. The Blues also need to start clearing some space to pay some young guys. Jordan Binnington is currently making $4.4 million AAV, but another solid season from Binnington and even another deep playoff run and he could easily become one of the top five paid goalies in the league, demanding more than what Pietrangelo might receive on the open market. Robert Thomas is also someone the Blues have to think about who could be making anywhere from $5-7 million depending if he continues the trajectory he is on. On the defensive side, Colton Parayko becoming a UFA in 2022 means in three years the Blues would have to deal with three defensemen eating up a fourth of the team’s salary cap especially if the cap stays near stagnant for a few years.
The idea of Pietrangelo signing with the Blues isn’t entirely lost yet. Reports are still strong that something can be done in the three weeks leading up to the free-agent frenzy. But the Blues have a plethora of young talent that is either ready to make the push to be a valuable member of this team’s core, or ready to prove that they are a solid NHL player that fits on this team. With the uptick of all these players, it makes you wonder if the Blues want to pay someone over $8 million dollars per year until they are 38 years old.