The Blues have some tough decisions to make. But when you have a player as special as Pietrangelo, sometimes it’s worth the price
ST. LOUIS — Some players are just different.
The majority of players that come and go on your local sports teams don’t leave much of an imprint or leave a big gap upon their exit. Athletes get close to the head, and eventually just give way to father time. Well, everyone except for Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
Someone like Alex Pietrangelo may not carry the same organizational weight of those previously mentioned Cardinals, but he’s that rare generational signature blend of talent, durability, and leadership that simply doesn’t grow on the trees often outside of The Enterprise Center.
He’s also a man without a future at the moment, at least one that doesn’t currently include a promised jersey. The St. Louis Blues and General Manager Doug Armstrong came to an impasse in talks with Pietrangelo and his agent a few weeks ago. Talks hadn’t completely broken down, but they were taking a nap until the market opened. That day was Oct. 9, which happens to be this Friday.
The Blues have offered Pietrangelo a contract, but they reportedly didn’t tell the Captain how long the contract would be. The average annual value of the proposed deal would be $7.7 million, but the structure is unknown to Pietrangelo.
The Blues aren’t really playing hardball. Pietrangelo did that by announcing that contract talks had come to a halt. But there are no bad sides here, just human beings trying to predict the future.
The popular deal is right around $8 million AAV and extends to eight seasons. Pietrangelo, who turns 31 in January, would ride this contract out into the proverbial sunset as a Blue, and hopefully with another ring or two on his hand.
Today, The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford told Randy Karraker and Michelle Smallmon that retaining Pietrangelo could possibly hinder their ability to re-sign Colton Parayko in a couple years. A point that Rutherford was very strong on, even though he understands how important Pietrangelo is to the Blues.
Here’s the thing. Pietrangelo is a good amount more important than Parayko. He can simply do more things on the ice and do them more consistently than Parayko, who has the big shot and skating ability, but lacks the refined precision of a top level NHL defenseman. He is signed for two more seasons, which would give the Blues a potent Cup window to grab #2. But if it came down to one or the other, it’s Pietrangelo all day and Sunday.
He logs big minutes against the other team’s elite players. He can put up 16 goals and 50 points, even in a shortened season. Pietrangelo can give you big value at each end of the ice, and has a fine slap shot of his own that has gotten a little less erratic over the past few seasons. We are talking about the guy who made Brad Marchand look silly in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Someone who can dictate the pace of the game anywhere on the ice. Like Parayko, Pietrangelo likes to pinch in the offensive zone on occasion, because he has those instincts and skating ability. You’ll need Pietrangelo to show the new draftee, Jake Neighbours, how to skate properly.
It’s not a shot against Parayko, who is a very good defenseman in his own right. He’s just not as vital as Pietrangelo, whose departure would fracture St. Louis’ near future Stanley Cup hopes. Parayko isn’t ready to be Pietrangelo, thus making him inferior at the moment. COVID-19 has messed up a lot of the team’s plans due to the flat cap for the next handful of seasons. Improvements won’t be possible without sacrifice. That’s the world we are living in now as hockey consumers. Heck, as sports consumers. The world has changed and no, you still can’t keep all your good players.
If keeping Pietrangelo around meant losing Parayko, I’d pull that trigger if I were Doug. Even if it meant trading Parayko this fall to get it done, I’d be fine with it. If Armstrong can avoid that measure, the Blues would get two more seasons of Pietrangelo and Parayko. There’s your window, folks.
Some players are just different. They operate on a level higher than most, which makes them hard to lose. Alex Pietrangelo, possibly more so than any other Blue, is irreplaceable, at least for the next 3-4 seasons.
I’ve said it before and I’ll scream it again. The Blues need to do what it takes to retain Pietrangelo. He’s different.