Saturday, September 14, 2013

Alex Pietrangelo: "I wanted to be a St. Louis Blue"

Defenseman will earn $45.5 million after signing seven-year
deal, becoming one of the highest paid defenseman in league

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Alex Pietrangelo was all smiles Saturday morning and with good reason.

But as recent as Thursday, the Blues' defenseman was having a hard time hearing about his teammates being on the ice while he sat back idly awaiting if the contract he and the Blues felt comfortable with would get consummated any time soon.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) and Blues general manager Doug
Armstrong after putting the finishing touches on Pietrangelo's new
seven-year contract.
So instead of dragging himself and the team through a long, drawn out and a potentially uncomfortable situation by going through any sort of a holdout, he sat at a table with general manager Doug Armstrong with plenty of reason to smile.

Pietrangelo put the finishing touches on the seven-year, $45.5-million contract he and the Blues agreed upon Friday by signing the contract Saturday morning before taking the ice for his first training camp practice.

Pietrangelo, 23, will average $6.5 million in annual average salary over the next seven seasons and has a no-trade clause kick in when he turns 27.

"I think there's always a part of a player that's in a team sport that wants to be there with his teammates," Pietrangelo said Saturday morning at the team's practice facility. "It's certainly not an easy thing to go through watching them start up without me, but at the same time, we're trying to focus on what we have to do. It was only a few days, but I'm finally glad to be here.

"Ultimately, I wanted to be a St. Louis Blue for a long time. This is something that makes sense to me, makes sense to my family. ... This is where I'm going to call home. Certainly a great place to live, great sports city, very supportive fans. Nothing but excitement to be back here for seven years."

Pietrangelo said the process of contract negotiations was a learning experience but got through it well. Along with family support, his representatives, led by the experienced Don Meehan of Newport Sports, helped him through his first extended contract negotiation.

"I got my representatives that are going to help me, guide me in a direction," Pietrangelo said. "Ultimately, the decision is mine. Me and my family came to the final conclusion. I obviously have a supporting cast behind me. I ultimately made the decision to get here today.

"Obviously it's a relief to get it done. I think I've been all smiles since yesterday when things finally got announced and I was on the plane on the way down here. To be at the rink and to see everyone in the organization from coaches to management to the players, it's extremely exciting. Now that I've been here for a few hours, it almost feels like I didn't miss anything."

Pietrangelo, who's been keeping up to speed skating in the Toronto area, flew into St. Louis Friday night and was gushing about the prospects of getting back on a defensive unit that is arguably one of the best in the NHL.

With Pietrangelo signed for seven seasons, along with having Jay Bouwmeester signed for the next six seasons and Kevin Shattenkirk for four years, the Blues have made what they feel is a necessary commitment to fortify their blue line.

"As far as our defense -- self-serving for sure -- I think we have the best defense in the NHL," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "I'm excited to have an opportunity to work with these guys. I'm excited to watch them perform. I think that when we go into any building, teams are going to say, 'Wow, that's a heck of a team they have ... offense coming from the back end.'

"We pushed, we pulled, we prodded, we both got extremely uncomfortable and said, 'Yes, let's get a deal done.'"

Add in Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Jordan Leopold in the top six as well as Ian Cole and veteran Ryan Whitney fighting for spots on the blue line, Pietrangelo reinforced that optimism.

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) after signing his seven-year
contract Saturday morning as general manager Doug Armstrong looks on.
"To see that commitment from Tom (Stillman) and the ownership group, it's obviously very appealing to a player who's looking to commit somewhere long-term," Pietrangelo said. "It was exciting to see that come from the ownership. Obviously the fantastic people that Tom has put together and that group, yeah you're talking about some pretty key pieces here on any team. Shatty and Bouw obviously could be No. 1 defensemen on any team. Like Doug said, to put those guys into our top six with myself, Leo, Jacks and Roman, it's looking pretty solid right now and obviously with the commitments that we have with some of the forwards up front for a few more years, it's looking like a pretty good team here moving forward and we're extremely excited to finally get this going."

Now that he's being paid like one of the top players in the game, Pietrangelo said the key is to stay the same.

"I think you have to treat it the same way," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously I've been playing big minutes for this hockey club for the last couple years. I'm not going to change my game or change my personality because of what's happened this summer. I'm going to go out there and be the best player on the ice every night.

"My ultimate goal is to help this team win. It doesn't matter what my salary or what somebody else's salary is. We're all here for the same goal and that's to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis."

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