The St. Louis Blues have added some key offensive pieces in Derek Roy and Magnus Paajarvi this offseason but have not yet locked up their number one defenseman. That man is Alex Pietrangelo. Blues fans have been hoping for a new deal extending the 23-year-old after his three year entry draft contract expired but that time has not come.
General Manager Doug Armstrong has said time after time that he will sign Pietrangelo, even promising it to the fans of St. Louis. He now hopes that his assistant captain can be signed before the start of training camp.
Pietrangelo and his agent Don Meehan have had communication with the Blues management, but not nearly enough for a contract to be signed in the near future. However, in contract negotiations, talk can heat up at any time. Fans all over the NHL are baffled at why an agreement has not been reached with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, but there is a good reason.
Pietrangelo reportedly wants a deal around $7 million per year but the question is: is he worth it? That question remains to be seen. The Blues have a new, disciplined ownership group revolving around Tom Stillman, and are not ready to throw out their salary cap to someone who has not yet proven he is a superstar on a consistent level.
After he exploded offensively for a 51 point break-out year in 2011-2012 and came in fourth in the Norris Trophy voting the King City, Ontario native’s production slowed down during the lockout-shortened season in 2013(24 points in 47 games). However, that was two points more than Stanley Cup winner and fellow 2008 first round pick Drew Doughty (taken by Los Angeles second overall), who received a new deal in 2011 worth $56 million over eight years. Does Alex Pietrangelo deserve a contract like that? I believe so.
Don’t agree with me? Well let’s look at the facts.
Pietrangelo is a two-way defenseman that is known for his scoring ever since he played for both Niagara and Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League. He has 121 points in just 224 games played in the NHL and was named to the second all-star team in 2011-2012 season. His great vision on the ice enables him to make smart, quick passes without telegraphing them. Pietrangelo’s skating out of his own zone has never been a problem for him and the Blues use that ability in order to create a plethora of scoring chances on the rush.
The youngster just finished his third full season and already leads his team in ice time, averaging a little over 25 minutes a night. That was 12th in the entire NHL at any position this year. He was on the ice more than big names like Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith, and Mike Green. Night after night, Pietrangelo is out there facing the best offensive unit the opposing team draws up and his coach Ken Hitchcock relies solely on him to shut them down.
When a coach with a high reputation like “Hitch” praises you for your performance, you know you belong in this league.
His maturity and leadership is way beyond his years. Let’s keep in mind he is only 23. The composure and discipline he possesses on and off the ice is a big reason why the Blues want to lock him up for a long time. Over the last two seasons, he has only registered 46 penalty minutes. He not only uses his 6’3″ frame to push his opponents off the puck, but his stick as well.
Some say he plays a lot like a young Nicklas Lidstrom, one of the best at using timely poke checks more frequently than crushing body checks to thwart the opposition’s chances.
Pietrangelo’s role on this young St. Louis Blues team is a big one. You could tell how much he meant to them when he sprained his MCL in game one of last year’s conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blues were tied 1-1 in the second period when Pietrangelo was ridden into the boards by Dwight King.
He and his teammates were never the same and got brutally dominated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. They were swept in four games.
How can you argue Pietrangelo’s value to his club? He is a big part of why the Blues are out of doghouse and now legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. The star St. Louis needs to win their first championship in their existence is right on their roster. If the Blues lowball him with a deal, he might decide to walk away and take an offer sheet from another team.
This would then force Doug Armstrong and his team to either match the deal or see the man they call Petro leave the organization.
Eventually, I believe the Blues will make the right decision and re-sign Alex Pietrangelo to a long term deal worth around $6.5-$7 million dollars a year. Whether that requires a holdout or not, St. Louis will have their star defenseman back for the 2013-2014 season.
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Main photo credit: sarah_connors via photopin cc