Union Pressure Influencing Pietrangelo Talks?
The longer you evaluate the ongoing talks between the St. Louis Blues and D-man Alex Pietrangelo the more you realize these negotiations are about way more than just the player.
When you’re a star player negotiating a contract there’s serious pressure that comes with it. While fans, friends, and family certainly count for something, the real pressure comes from the union. It’s a pressure of leverage not to undervalue yourself and to make sure you’re doing your part to set the bar for the next player down the line.
The union, in this case the NHLPA, reminds you of the luxuries they’ve negotiated on your behalf, now it’s on you to do your part and return the favor.
One thing we know for sure, Pietrangelo will play for the Blues this season. Whether he reports to training camp on time remains to be seen but neither side will tell you they’re concerned.
For now the contract has been shelved. Not due to any stalemate or crossroads, but simply because both sides have personal business they want to tend to for the time being. Eventually summer vacations will pass and both parties will hunker down and get back to business.
We all know these contracts get done quickly once the same language is being spoken. There’s still plenty of time left on the clock as we still have more than a month before players report to camp. In other words we’ve yet to reach any significant pressure points.
Where Does Petro Fit?
This is the question the Blues are most likely asking themselves. Do they truly believe he’s Drew Doughty or Erik Karlsson or is he a second tier player?
Two seasons ago, after Ken Hitchcock took over the team, Pietrangelo took off as a player. He played as well as any D-man in the league the last few months of the season. Last year was a different story. While he showed flashes of great play, the consistency that separates good from great players wasn’t always there.
So again I ask the question….where does Pietrangelo fit?
This isn’t about Pietrangelo being good or great. It’s more like “very good” or great. Even when he’s off his game he stills bail you out of trouble. But if he wants to be compensated like a great player there’s a standard he’ll be required to set if he’s going to be paid $6-$7 million a year to play hockey.
How serious is Pietrangelo about setting the tone for this organization the next several years down the road? How serious is he about being a top guy? What separates a player like Doughty from Pietrangelo today is competition. When the game is on the line Doughty has proven several times over that he can deliver on the biggest stage.
Doughty has been a Norris finalist, won an Olympic gold medal, and lifted the Stanley Cup. You can compare stats over the first three years of their careers but don’t forget Pietrangelo was sent back to the OHL as an 18 and 19 year-old.
In defense of Pietrangelo I will say this. His game is measured by more than just numbers. Both the Coyotes Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson are primarily dominant offensive defenseman. Ekman-Larsson is entering the first year of a six-year, $33 million contract that sees him make at least $6 million in each of the last four years of his deal. Karlsson is entering the second year of a seven year deal that pays him at least $7 million the last four years.
While Pietrangelo may not put up eye-popping offensive numbers, he’s out performed Ekman-Larsson and arguably brings more balance to the ice than Karlsson.
Again this next contract will magnify Pietrangelo’s strengths and weaknesses. How focused will he be in becoming the true face of the franchise? There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it and it’s more than just showing up to work and putting on your skates. He immediately becomes the tempo setter moving forward and will go a long way in helping this organization reach a championship level.
Shatty vs. Petro….
Even internally you could have a pretty good discussion regarding Kevin Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo. Shattenkirk signed a 4 year $17 million contract this summer and in my opinion is slightly under valued around the league. These two are different players as Shattenkirk has great offensive instincts while Pietrangelo has a spread out set of skills that impacts the game in more areas.
To be honest they could both steal a little something from the one another. Is Pietrangelo $2 or $3 million better than Shattenkirk? It’s a fair question to chew on.
Outside of Weber and Doughty, there are few players that bring the balance Pietrangelo showcases. He’s as good as any player is in making plays under pressure.
Committed to Winning?
Petro shares some responsibility in allowing the team to build players around him while still satisfying his financial needs. The Detroit Red Wings are a perfect example of this. Some guys could have maybe signed for more elsewhere but happiness counts for something. Few things make you happier than winning. You can’t handcuff a team and prevent the organization from re-signing other players down the road. This includes Captain David Backes.
Again I get back to my original point. There’s legitimate pressure from the union to get the best deal he can. The same can be said with his agents led by Don Meehan. The NHLPA depends on Meehan and his agency to set the bar for future players.
All eyes are on this contract and it’s about more than meeting Pietrangelo’s needs. Still it’s only a matter of time before it gets done.
Jay Bouwmeester will head to Edmonton in a few weeks to skate with the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, and Jason Chimera.
The Blues have extended their agreement with Anheuser-Busch for five years. They have another announcement they’ll be making shortly.
Jaro Halak will take this week off of his training after going ten consecutive weeks. His body fat is approaching single digits. Halak saw a Doctor in Philly this summer who said surgery would not be necessary to repair his ongoing groin/hip flexor issue.
Derek Roy will wear number 12 this season.
Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson will begin skating with his local Swedish Elite League club once they open camp shortly.
I have moved radio stations and am now with the all new CBS Sports Radio 920.
More to come,
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