Pietrangelo signing doesn't spell end for Whitney;
Blues to open preseason Sunday in Dallas
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- With news that Alex Pietrangelo signed his contract and he was on his way to St. Louis to join the rest of his Blues teammates for training camp, the immediate attention turned to veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney and his status with the team.
The 30-year-old Whitney, an unrestricted free agent this summer, was brought in as insurance to the Blues in a professional tryout basis to add depth to a defensive unit that faced the prospect of playing without Pietrangelo for an extended period of time.
But Pietrangelo's seven-year, $45.5-million contract squashed all those connotations and it now gives the Blues eight NHL-caliber defensemen and only room for perhaps seven of them on the parent roster.
But Whitney, who played the previous four seasons with Edmonton, won't be shown the door. Not just yet. Perhaps not ever.
Whitney is going to be given every opportunity to make the Blues this season, and if it should sacrifice someone on the current roster, the team is prepared to do that.
"He's going to get a full go here," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Whitney, who Hitchcock said will play at least four preseason games. "This guy's a good player, and we need an evaluation on him. If he beats somebody out, he beats somebody out. That's just the way it is. He came here to try out for a hockey club and we're going to give him every go to make the team here. He's going to make his way on the team or off the team here depending on his play.
"We just don't want to put him out there in a third pair. We want to put him in a role that he's used to playing in the National Hockey League and then evaluate him from there. He's a good player. He can really help us so we want to get a great evaluation in the next month."
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong agreed.
"For sure. He made a commitment to come into our team," Armstrong said of Whitney. "He's going to get some exhibition games, he's a big, strong player ... you can never have too many good players. We'll see how the rest of the players perform in training camp. We're in the winning business. The St. Louis Blues, I don't want to say are all-in, but when you look at the resources that are spent from our ownership group this year, it's the highest it's been in probably a decade. The expectations are as high as they've been in a decade ... we're going to have the best players on the ice.
"We're going to give him the opportunity to play and show that he's capable and push someone out of work. if he does that, we'll find a way."
* Preseason opener -- The Blues will kick off their preseason schedule with a Sunday 6 p.m. tilt in Dallas against the Stars.
Hitchcock said Friday that the game roster has been set "for the past three days," but
"The first two games are give everybody a chance to get in and play, so you're not going to see much of our team," Hitchcock said. "But we'll make the minimum requirements to play and then we'll evaluate a lot of the younger guys and see. The next two or three games are going to be who gets to stick around a little bit longer kind of games."
* Camp standouts -- A day after finding nerves getting to the Blues' newcomers, Hitchcock found them to be noticeable for Friday's camp sessions.
"The new guys were good today," Hitchcock said. "Whitney had a good day today. (Maxim) Lapierre had a good day today. (Magnus) Paajarvi had a good day today.
"The new guys looked a little bit nervous and tighter yesterday. Today they were going. I think the other thing that showed up was they're not just good players, they've got great speed, especially the forwards. That really adds a lot to the mix for us. They're able to create separation that maybe last year we couldn't create."
Paajarvi once again played left wing on a line with Patrik Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko. Lapierre centered a line with Ryan Reaves and Sergey Andronov.
* Cost for D -- After signing Pietrangelo Friday, the Blues will have $96.3 million in contracts tied up in Pietrangelo (seven years, $45.5 million), Jay Bouwmeester ($6.8 million this season, then five years, $27 million thereafter) and Kevin Shattenkirk (four years, $17 million) for the next six seasons.
It's a lot of money to invest in the blue line, but Armstrong is comfortable knowing the contributions and minutes those players can command.
"I think having players that can command the ice time that they command, having Kevin Shattenkirk signed for four years ... our defense is set up very well moving forward," Armstrong said.