The St. Louis Blues had a difficult task entering NHL free agency.
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo was the No. 1 defenseman on the market and expected to land a huge contract. St. Louis made an effort to re-sign Pietrangelo, but he ultimately left to join the Vegas Golden Knights on a seven-year deal worth $61.6 million that includes a full no-movement clause.
The Blues swiftly moved to replace Pietrangelo by agreeing to a seven-year contract worth $45.5 million with Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug. Krug was the No. 2 ranked defenseman on the free agent market and the next-best option for St. Louis following Pietrangelo's departure.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong did an interview with Sportsnet's "Hockey Central at Noon" on Wednesday and walked through the process that led to Krug joining St. Louis.
"We were disappointed (to lose Pietrangelo), but you know, in our business, you get up the next day and you look and say, ‘what’s the next-best scenario?’" Armstrong said. "We had talked about it before. It was a long three hours, quite honestly, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. watching and hoping that Krug, who was the No. 1 player for us, that we didn’t see something come across that he and Boston had agreed to terms."
Armstrong tried to sell Krug on the Blues being a competitive team over the duration of his contract.
"When 11 o’clock central rolled around that day, he was our first call -- an introductory call. I had a call with him and then I arranged a call with him and (Blues coach) Craig (Berube). At that point, you’re not talking finances, you’re talking more fit on the team, what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s a player who I think looked at our group, he’s coming in, our age group is very similar to him. He sees a path to winning over the term of his contract. So I sort of walked through the veteran players, the middle-aged players, the younger players and how we were going to bring him into a sustainable group over seven years, and then we got down to the finances."
Pietrangelo is a better all-around player than Krug, but the 29-year-old defenseman will bring quite an offensive punch to St. Louis' lineup. Krug has averaged 51.2 points over the last five seasons and should play a prominent role on the Blues' top power play unit.
The Bruins have yet to replace Krug's role on the blue line. They did well to bring in veteran winger Craig Smith on a three-year, $9.3 million contract, but there's still a huge need for a top-four defenseman on Boston's roster. Right now, it looks like the Bruins' plan is to see if some of their younger defensemen -- including Jeremy Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril -- are able to collectively replace Krug.
It's not the best strategy, but the Bruins don't have a ton of salary cap space to work with, and they still need to sign top-six winger Jake DeBrusk (RFA) and/or captain Zdeno Chara (UFA) before the 2020-21 season begins.