Holdout Looming? Talks Continue
Look for Alex Pietrangelo to sign with the St. Louis Blues. When he signs remains unknown but as GM Doug Armstrong has said all along, he will play for the Blues this season.
This should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the Pietrangelo negotiations, which by the way are ongoing after several weeks of limited dialogue.
The Pietrangelo contract is a complicated one. Not necessarily because of the dollars but with no arbitration deadline to work off of both sides have the luxury of standing firm for as long as they want. Technically the two sides have until December 1st, the deadline restricted free agents have to sign if they want to play NHL hockey this season.
Armstrong sees three unofficial deadlines in play…the start of training camp (players report September 11th) , the start of the regular season (October 3rd), and December 1st.
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.
He’s gone head to head with Doughty in two straight playoff years only to be outplayed on both occasions. You could make the case Slava Voynov outplayed Pietrangelo last spring as the Kings knocked the Blues out in the first round.
I’m not suggesting Voynov is the better player but a stronger playoff performance by Pietrangelo might have helped his case in these negotiations.
Stepping back and looking at the situation objectively you quickly realize both Doug Armstrong and super-agent Don Meehan are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Armstrong’s job is to get the best deal for his hockey club, Meehan’s is to get the best deal for his client.
Remember the days when veteran players were the one’s getting paid and made the most money? Now all you need is one good year in your entry level contract and you’ve won the lottery. Then again a lot of these young players are the best on their individual teams when you look at guys like Doughty, P.K. Subban, Steven Stamkos, and now Pietrangelo. This certainly won’t be Pietrangelo’s last opportunity to hit a home run financially.
Training camp Holdout?
There’s certainly a chance a deal is reached just before players report next Wednesday. But the real pressure may not come until we get closer to the regular season. If Pietrangelo is unsigned when the season begins, then how the team performs without him may determine how many games he misses. If the team is playing well without Pietrangelo then it could force him to accept a deal he doesn’t like and vice versa if the Blues struggle without their best player. Armstrong said today both sides will likely agree to a deal neither side is fully comfortable with.
Armstrong hinted the team will likely add at least one veteran D-man to the training camp roster on a professional tryout. This will obviously help in terms of Head Coach Ken Hitchcock having the number of defensemen he wants to run drills in practice. Not to mention you need a minimum number of veteran players on your roster in pre-season games. An additional veteran player will assist in piecing together lineups for pre-season games.
Armstrong has experience with holdouts from his days in Dallas. Darian Hatcher, Darryl Sydor, and Brendan Morrow each held out for a period of time.
Hitchcock tells me he fully understands the business side of the game and says he focuses on two things…. 1) The player will eventually arrive. 2) You can’t worry about coaching a player who isn’t there.
There are a lot of numbers being tossed around in terms of where negotiations are at. Several different concepts are being discussed as the two sides continue to speak daily.
Jaro Halak has seen his body fat dip from 14% at the end of last year to 9% over the summer.
Former 4th round pick Jani Hakanpaa has been named the captain of the Traverse City roster.
As I mentioned over the summer, goaltender Jordan Binnington is likely headed to Kalamazoo in the ECHL where he’s guaranteed to play games this season. The Chicago Wolves, who have Matt Climie and Jake Allen penciled in this season, have an affiliation with Kalamazoo.
The Blues will stick with “Long Live the Note” as their marketing theme this season.
Line combinations will come and go but as most know by now, Hitchcock likes to keep pairs together.
He will be the pairs entering camp…
TJ Oshie will play with either Roy or Backes, same with Jaden Schwartz.
Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo are a guaranteed defensive pair assuming Pietrangelo is signed. The other two pairs have yet to be officially determined. One can assume Shattenkirk and Leopold will be given an opportunity to round out the top four D-men.
Alex Pietrangelo is skating with a number of NHL players in Toronto.
More to come,
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