Defenseman gets $45.5 million contract, averaging $6.5 million per season
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Once the Blues opened training camp on Thursday, it became a matter of time before Alex Pietrangelo would join his teammates.
The Pietrangelo contract dispute with the Blues didn't need a lot of time to consummate once the on-ice workouts began.
The Blues and their top-tiered defenseman agreed to terms on a seven-year contract Friday worth $45.5 million which includes a full no-trade clause when he turns 27, or the final three years of Pietrangelo's contract, which would have made him eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Alex Pietrangelo will be in camp Saturday after agreeing
to a seven-year contract Friday that will pay him
Pietrangelo, who finished his three-year, entry-level contract last season, missed the opening of training camp after the two sides could not come to terms on an agreement in the late hours Tuesday night.
But both Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and Pietrangelo's camp, represented by Don Meehan of Newport Sports, re-engaged in contract talks Thursday and the sides split the difference in dollar amount and wrapped up what Armstrong called "loose ends" on Friday.
"We're excited," Armstrong said. "It's a day that I knew was going to come at some point. I was hoping it was going to be a few days ago, but we had a conversation yesterday, a scheduled call today and we were able to wrap up all the loose ends that were there.
"In talking to Alex, I know he's very excited to be part of the organization. What I said to him, 'This isn't a seven-year deal, this is just another stepping stone to the rest of your career.' I think he's excited to be here. I know we're excited to have him, get him in here to St. Louis tomorrow and turn him over to the coach."
The Pietrangelo camp was said to be seeking Drew Doughty dollars. Doughty got an eight-year, $56-million deal (AAV of $7 million per season). Both are represented by Meehan and came from the same draft class (Doughty was the second pick in 2008, Pietrangelo was the fourth pick). The Blues were said to be offering $6 million per season.
Armstrong indicated on Tuesday that the possibility of a "bridge contract" was a possibility, but the sides were focused on a longer-termed deal and were able to come to terms on a long-term contact that will take Pietrangelo three years into his UFA years. The Blues still owned the rights to Pietrangelo, 23, for four more seasons.
"He's the one player that has that quality to be an elite player in our game and in his position," Armstrong said of Pietrangelo, who will debut in camp Saturday afternoon. "I view him as a potential Norris Trophy winner, I view him as someone who can dominate a game. He has the ability to play half the game, he touches every aspect of our team, power play, penalty killing. He has leadership qualities, he's played internationally and done very well.
"I just think at his age, defense is a position that's a little slower to mature at than maybe a forward and what he's accomplished so far, sets up for an outstanding career. I think we're all very fortunate to have it here in St. Louis."
Meehan also represents Montreal's P.K. Subban -- Subban missed the first six games for the Canadiens last season before signing a two-year bridge contract -- and said it was just a matter of time.
"I think all in all, this is a fair deal for both sides," Meehan said. "Doug and I had agreed - and we have a long-standing relationship - and even though some of these issues were difficult, we had agreed that we would continue to speak with each other," Meehan said. "I've been at it long enough to know that you can't operate on this basis waiting for the other person to call."
"We kept up a pretty consistent, professional rapport ... We simply weren't able to put everything to rest (Tuesday)," Meehan added. "We still had issues to speak about. I don't know that talks had ever broken off. I don't feel that ever had with us. They were continuous."
Veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has been Pietrangelo's partner since his arrival via trade late last season and who will be his partner again this season, spent some time with the King City, Ontario native at Canada's Olympic Orientation Camp.
"From his perspective, I saw him a couple weeks ago and no one wants to sit out, no one wants to do that," Bouwmeester said. "He wants to be here. Absolutely the quicker you get it done ... it's not a drawn-out thing.
"You have everyone there. I don't think it was a distraction. It's out of the way. It's done, and you move along."
Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo play similar styles and similar minutes (both in the 20-plus minute range), which made it a good fit.
"I think we did a good job of communicating and doing those things that make that transition a little easier," Bouwmeester said. "We're both guys that rely on our skating and we're able to move the puck. You realize each other's tendencies, which are pretty similar. He's a good player and he's not a hard guy to play with, so that's probably part of it.
"From my perspective, I knew coming here that I would have the chance to play with a guy like that who's a real top-end guy. That was exciting. You do the things off the ice to kind of make sure you're on the same page, but you really just go out there and play. Once you know positioning and know what a guy's tendencies are, it's easy to just play."
Blues captain David Backes said it's natural for a player to be itching to get into camp while his teammates are fully engaged and preparing for what is expected to be another solid season for the Blues. Backes said it does play a part in these negotiations.
"I can’t imagine that it doesn't," Backes said. "Your nature as a team sport athlete is to be around the guys and to be in that locker room, to have the camaraderie in the room. When you're kind of that outcast, that guy sitting at home, all because of business things, not because of injury or because of your ability to play that game, that has to eat at you. I think anybody that's ever held out would admit that.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (left) agreed to terms on a new
seven-year contract Friday and he will be in camp Saturday.
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Friday that missing only two days of practice won't affect or alter Pietrangelo's progression.
"I think with training camp and exhibition games, he's going to get up to speed," Hitchcock said. "He hasn't missed much. We kept him up to date until we couldn't speak to him anymore. He knows the last couple weeks what's going on, players have kept him up to date. Just missing the first two ice sessions isn't a big deal. He'll catch up to speed right away.
"For him, for the team, for where we want to go to the next level, all those things, I think it's important (for Pietrangelo to be at camp). It's not a distraction now. Our team's in place. Now it's just who can do what during training camp."