After a short holdout that kept defenseman Alex Pietrangelo out of the Blues' first two days of training camp, the young defenseman has officially signed and agreed to terms with the team on a new contract, and he couldn't be more happy that he is a Blue for the next seven years.
“I was behind getting it done the whole time," said Pietrangelo. "Obviously I wanted to be here, be a Blue. That was my ultimate goal. It’s a relief to get it done.
“I sat down with my family and discussed it," said Pietrangelo when asked how he responded to the Blues' offer. "As I said, I wanted to be a St. Louis Blue for a long time, and this deal made sense to me, and it made sense to my parents.”
The deal, which was announced on Friday afternoon, followed a short break off in talks between the Blues and Pietrangelo's party. The day after the Blues announced Pietrangelo would not be with the team for the start of camp, the two sides re-engaged in talks via a phone call. From there, all it took was scheduling a meeting for the following day to iron out the issues and put an end to an extremely long negotiation process.
Talks really began to pick up a few weeks ago when general manager Doug Armstrong and Pietrangelo's agent, Don Meehan, met in Traverse City, Michigan where the team was involved in a short prospects tournament. It was at that tournament that momentum towards a new deal began to formulate.
“We were in a lot of communication with Alex’s representatives in Traverse City, Michigan, said Armstrong. "Don Meehan and I had a lot of good dialogue the night before training camp and there were a couple of outstanding issues that we couldn’t push ourselves past.”
Those issues took a few weeks to sort themselves out, but the Blues feel they now have one of the game's best young defenseman as he is entering his prime.
“He’s that one player that has that quality to be an elite player in our game," said Armstrong. "I view him as a potential Norris Trophy winner; I view him as someone who can dominate a game. At his age, defense is a position that is a little slower to mature at, and what he has accomplished so far sets up for an amazing career. I think we are very fortunate to have it here in St. Louis.”
Pietrangelo, who was fresh off of his three-year entry-level contract which paid him $787,00 per year, was rumored to be searching for a deal worth $7 million annually. The Blues were hesitant to pay more that $6 million. The two sides met in the middle, and Pietrangelo will be making $45.5 over the seven years (average annual value is $6.5 million).
According to Armstrong, the two sides discussed a short"bridge contract", or a short-term deal, but Pietrangelo wasn't interested. The club preferred a longer deal as well.
“We were prepared to do a bridge contract, if that is what he was most comfortable with, back in July and August. When you are dealing with your marquee players, you want to make sure they are comfortable. We presented options to him right off the bat that were long-term and bridge deal. He said he wanted to focus on the longer deal and that’s really where we spent all of our time.”
The 23-year old defenseman is coming off of a 24-point 2013 campaign, which led all Blues' defensemen. Yet, the season was a mediocre one for the talented defenseman.
In his first two National Hockey League seasons, Pietrangelo had 43 and 51 points respectively. He was on pace for around 40 last season, but his impact to the team wasn't as great as it had been in the previous two years. However, the Blues know what they are getting in Pietrangelo, and that is consistency on the ice every single game. They were clear that they didn't want that to change because of the new deal.
“We don’t want Alex to come in and try to be anyone but Alex," said Armstrong. "That’s the player we want, that’s the player we are committed to.”
Pietrangelo was in 100 percent agreement with Armstrong's statement.
“I’m not going to change my game, change my personality because of everything that has happened this summer," he said. "I am going to go out there and try to be the best player on the ice every night.”
Pietrangelo's first day on the ice for training camp was Saturday. He was all smiles, as the drama that is contract negotiating is now seven years away for him, and he is back doing what he loves.
"I think I have been all smiles since it finally got announced," he said. "It is extremely exciting.”
Armstrong said Pietrangelo's biggest smile will come on Oct. 15 when he receives his first check.