Alex Pietrangelo is going to be a member of the St. Louis Blues this season, eventually. That much is certain. But you can’t blame the team for taking a few precautions in case he misses a chunk of training camp as an unsigned restricted free agent.
GM Doug Armstrong told STLToday.com that the Blues are mulling over the “what ifs” on Pietrangelo’s absence from camp:
“I’ve talked to the coaches about the ‘what ifs’ on a few different situations,” Armstrong said. “We’re not going to replace Alex in eight days. We’re not going to replace him in eight years. Our goal is to get him signed and when we get him signed, he’ll be here.
“But we do have to have the proper amount of players to run practices and to make sure that we’re getting what we want out of those exhibition games. We want players getting ready to play, but we don’t want to overburden them. With him out, is it going to increase the burden on other players or do we find a way to fill that from the outside?”
That means bringing in a veteran defenseman that can at least mimic the role Pietrangelo plays on the ice. Both Andy Strickland and Bob McKenzie report that player is former Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney, who … well, at the very least he used to have a game that resembled Pietrangelo’s.
Whitney would come to Blues camp on a Professional Tryout Contract, but nothing's been finalized, according to Strickland.
As for the Pietrangelo negotiations, McKenzie reports that the two sides are working on an 8-year max term contract, but the question remains if he’ll get Erik Karlsson ($6.5 million AAV over seven years) or Drew Doughty ($7 million AAV over 8 years) money.
The Blues don’t need further proof to confirm the notion that Pietrangelo is a very good player. That they already know. How good is somewhat foggy just three full seasons into his career. There’s no question Pietrangelo is the undisputed number one D-man on the Blues roster and will continue to be for at least the next seven to eight years. There have been comparisons made with the contracts signed by Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson whose resumes were a little more defined at the time they signed their lofty extensions. Again we know Pietrangelo is good, but do we truly know how he fits in with the best players at his position in the NHL?
Doughty was a Norris finalist as a 19 year-old in his second NHL season, Karlsson was coming off a Norris Trophy winning season before officially becoming filthy rich at only 21 years of age.
If timing is everything this didn’t exactly work out as Pietrangelo had hoped who is arguably coming off of his weakest NHL season. In fairness, his weakest year is still better than the best season for most D-men in the league. As I’ve said before, even when Pietrangelo is struggling he still bails you out of trouble.
Whatever the case, the Blues would seem destined to have over $16 million in cap space dedicated to three defenseman through 2017: Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk ($4.25 million) and Jay Bouwmeester ($5.4 million). But that's a solid foundation around which to build.