More on the subject Pending Free Agency by Alex Pietrangelo

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The St. Louis Blues have become the target of much speculation over the past week, after issuing Sammy Blais, Mackenzie MacEachern and more particularly, Marco Scandella. The latest deal brought in $ 3.275 million of rear ceiling space for each of the next four years, a precious asset for a team with arguably the best UFA on the waiting list. Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues captain and best defenseman is ready for a new contract.

Over the weekend, Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic wrote about a demand for $ 9 million per season that may have to go down due to the stagnation of the ceiling and today Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet made similar comments on the radio:

I don’t think there has been much dialogue on this one this year. I think there have been negotiations on several occasions. I think the Blues have made it clear that they are ready to go around [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson is worth $ 8.25 × 8, and I think the Blues are ready to go a little higher because he’s their guy, he’s their captain, they won the Cup and everything. But I don’t think they’re ready to go [$9MM/year range] or whatever, and that’s where they were stuck at that moment.

It is important to remember some of the moves that Blues GM Doug Armstrong has done in the past with key players. By the 2017 trade deadline, Armstrong traded a free agent while waiting Kevin Shattenkirk despite the Blues seated in the playoffs. They would finally finish with 99 points and advance to the second round, only to lose to the Nashville Predators in six games (scoring just 11 goals in the series). Although Shattenkirk was an integral part of the Blues at the time, his 42 points in the first 61 games were followed only Vladimir Tarasenko for the team leader – it was clear that he was not going to sign a long-term agreement before testing the free agency. Armstrong bit the ball and traded a franchise star for futures.

In 2018, it was pretty much the same story for the Blues. Approaching the trade deadline, St. Louis was in the middle of a seven-game losing streak in a season, but still a few points away from a playoff position. They were obviously still a solid club, but it didn’t seem like their year (it would come soon enough). When the Winnipeg Jets arrived, Armstrong decided to compromise with another star player who would not sign again. Paul Stastny, who was fourth on the team scoring in the first 63 games, was traded for another set of futures, including a first-round pick.

Make no mistake, Shattenkirk and Stastny are not Pietrangelo. The 30-year-old is one of the most respected captains in the league, a Norris level defender and a current Stanley Cup champion. He has also been with St. Louis throughout his career and would be one of the best players in franchise history if he never played another game. His two-way skill is a big part of what makes the Blues so special, which makes it easy to understand why he too wasn’t eliminated by the deadline.

But there will be a limit for the Blues and if the story of Armstrong is any indication, he will not hesitate to move on if he thinks this is what is right for the organization. The fact that the salary cap situation is still so unclear makes the commitments of $ 79 million + that the team has already made for next year, which means that they should withdraw significant sums to make square. Of course, there is still time to do so, especially if compliance buyouts or some kind of wage relief is put in place.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

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