Friday, August 28, 2020

Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo

ST. LOUIS -- The image may have seemed innocent enough at the time, but it obviously had plenty of meaning for it between two close friends.

When the Blues were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the first round, the last two to leave the ice were David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo. Perron had his arm around his friend.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo

It was the proper gesture just in case Pietrangelo, the Blues' captain the past four years, played his last game in a Blues uniform.

The team's fourth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft is set to be an unrestricted free agent unless the Blues sign him to a new contract after Pietrangelo completed a seven-year, $45.5 million deal signed in 2013.

Both the Blues and Pietrangelo have expressed an interest in keeping the 12-year veteran in the fold for the long term, but with the Blues up against the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling and needing to sign restricted free agents Vince Dunn and perhaps Jacob de la Rose, there isn't any wiggle room to add salary unless they subtract it, and the only way to subtract is to do so through a trade or trades.

Pietrangelo recently spoke of this particular subject and more, including getting back to his family, which will be added by one next month, why the Blues couldn't find their game in the Edmonton bubble, his friend and longtime linemate Jay Bouwmeester, his legacy in St. Louis and more:

What was it like to see the triplets and what was their reaction when they saw dad?
They were pretty excited. One of my boys was really, really excited. My daughter was kind of giving me the cold shoulder. It was pretty fun. You miss so much, right? I was only gone for only like a month and just coming back, they change so much in that one month. Right now, they're pretty excited. I'll tell you what, me and my wife would run some errands this morning and they didn't want dad to leave. I think maybe they thought I wasn't coming back again. It wasn't easy to be gone, I'll tell you that. You don't think you like the chaos, but you miss the chaos when you're not around it, so it's good to be in that mix again.

Has your daughter come around?
Oh yeah. She's my best friend. She's good not. We had some good bonding the other day, watched some TV together. We're back, we're back to where we were.

Was it tough for you guys to focus on hockey knowing you'd be away from your infant kids especially for up to several months?
It wasn't easy. I think once we got into games though, your focus is on playing. At least for me personally, off days was hard because you're trying to talk to your kids as much as you can and you're trying to find ways to fill your day because there wasn't really a whole lot to do up there, but game days are probably the best days because you're able to kill time and your mind was on the game. It seemed like you could keep yourself occupied. I don't think it's necessarily an excuse. Is it nice to be home now? Yeah, of course it is, but that's not what we were thinking when we were there. We figured if we're going to go there, the goal is to win. We were gone from our families for what, a month? We didn't want to go there for nothing. Unfortunately it didn't work out the way we wanted to, but the goal all along was to continue to play. Definitely wasn't easy, but I think a lot of us older guys did the best we could and held together pretty well considering.

Why didn't it work out for you guys up there then and you guys pick up where regular season left off?
I think for is throughout our lineup, there wasn't enough consistency. If you watch even before the break started, we would come in waves. We'd use all of our lines and everyone playing the same way. It just felt like we weren't getting consistency from all of us throughout the lineup. In every single game when you play in a series, especially against a team like Vancouver, me having more experience, we felt like if we were able to do that, we would have had a chance to win. Big thing for us is really just the consistency on both sides of the puck throughout the entire lineup.

Was it tough to get that consistency once you didn't have it at the start?
Yeah, it's not easy. You play however many games we played, or in the regular season, you're playing 82 and the goal always, right, is build up into the playoffs and make sure that your game leading up to the playoffs is exactly where you want. We felt like before the break started, that's where our game was at, that we were heading in the right direction like we were last year and unfortunately, the break kind of put a halt in that momentum and we just had a tough time grabbing what we wanted to grab. We had some injuries and some lines were changing up front consistently. That's not an excuse. I still think we should have found a way to grab the thing and showed the consistency that we're used to. That's what teams expect from us.

Can you Zoom or FaceTime with triplets?
Oh yeah, they know how to hold the phone. They walk around with the phone and show me their toys. Kids are a lot smarter than I thought they were, I'll tell you that. Or they're a lot smarter than I was when I was a kid. They're pretty smart, they're pretty sharp. They know how to do all that stuff.

Can you describe being captain of the Blues but currently you can argue you're not even on the Blues being a UFA at present time?
Yeah, it's a weird feeling obviously. There's teams making trades and there's teams still playing. The whole thing is odd right now, but this is the circumstance we're in. Obviously it would be a little different if we didn't have the break. I think everybody feels, not just me, but all these teams feel a little bit odd because you can make deals and trades, but there's still teams playing. It's a little bit interesting, but the NHL's done the best they can to kind of accommodate everybody whether they're playing or whether they're watching.

Is it best right now to just step back for a couple days and perhaps decompress and not think about contract situation or go right into it?
I mean look, me and my wife, we continue to talk about it. There are obviously conversations that have to be had between each other. Is there much to talk about? No, the situation is what it is. The off-season is going to come quicker than we know it. We're having those discussions between us. The best part about me is I have a distraction. I have these kids here and they can kind of keep me busy and keep my mind off it. Really, I haven't given it a whole lot of thought lately, or not much. Just trying to soak all this in after being gone for so long.

On Binnington's struggles in bubble:
Sure, he wants to find a way too, but so do all of us, right? We're built on a team, right, and when everybody has success, there's a reason why, because they're playing well. I know it's easy to blame him, but then again, we weren't exactly great in front of him. We can argue it 10 different ways, but we need to be better in front of him because when we're better in front of him, he's going to be better too. I think all of us just kind of need to take a step back here and look at this thing as a whole and kind of gear up for the next season.

You have no doubt Binnington will be back, right?
I'm not worried about it. Not everybody played the best in the bubble. He was good during the regular season, he's an all-star. We're not going to just give up on people because we played in the tournament and had four months off. It's a different situation to kind of look at it and try to dissect as a team, but I know that's Army and Chief's job to look at things as a whole. I'm sure in a couple weeks when all of us have a longer break, we can look at it and find a way where we can all get better.

By July 1, normally would know what the future is, but now, don't know when free agency begins. Is that weird?
It's a little bit odd, but we know what day free agency is. We're just shifting our calendar forward. We're just shifting our calendar forward. That's just the way it is. None of us really planned for this. The league didn't plan for this, I didn't plan for it, Army didn't plan for it. Whatever the case may be. We know when the day is. We're just going to kind of sit tight until we have a conversation with Army or we wait until that day. We're not really worrying about so much as much as we are just kind of taking things in stride right now because it's an odd circumstance for everybody. 

On dealing with all the events and everything that's happened in the last year:
Just dating back to last year and coaching change, it's been a wild ride. I thought we handled it pretty well. Our group, we're a pretty mature group. Our veteran guys can really hold things together. It really would have been easy for us to get distracted throughout the year and not play the way that we wanted to, but if you look at where we were in the standings, we were doing a lot of things right and we were able to kind of push all that aside and refocus and get ready for the playoffs. I am proud of our group that we were able to kind of dial all that in with the distractions that came along with what we did last year.

On Jay Bouwmeester:
I always talk to Bouw. I can talk for hours about how much Bouw has meant to me as a player Obviously we played hundreds of games together as partners and Olympic and World Cup. The list goes on and on. He's really a reason I am the player I am today. He impacted me in so many ways, but any time you have someone who's in a situation whether you went through what Bouw went through or they retire or whatever it may be, you miss the person, right? We've been here together for a long time. He seen me grow up as a player and as a person. We became obviously really close friends, our wives are close. I'm going to miss having him around if that's the decision that he makes. I haven't talked to him about that. Just not having him around here for the few months that he was gone, it wasn't easy. I know everyone in the locker room is going to miss him. He's obviously a fun guy to have around.

Can you imagine putting on another jersey?
Lots of guys do it. I hope it doesn't get to that point. I grew up here. This is the only place I know professionally. Family's here, I grew up here. Grew up here as a player and as a person. It's part of the business unfortunately and the situation is what it is, but hopefully that circumstance doesn't happen and we'll see where this thing takes us.

What's the window for this team to win moving forward?
This is a good core group. Other than me and Dunner this year, everyone's under contract for a couple more years. We didn't have Vladi all year. There's a lot of things on this team that I think, OK, we lost in the first round, but I think there's a lot of things that we look for as a group and as an organization moving forward that are really positive. I think people really need to look at the whole picture here. If it was easy to win every year, there would be more teams doing it. Did we end it the way that we wanted to? No, obviously not. We're disappointed. We don't think it was good enough. We didn't think that we played the way we wanted to. Sometimes as you get older, you look at the whole picture and where this team's at and where the organization's at and there's a lot of things to continue to look forward to because the window's still there for a few more years. I know that's the reason we've had success up until this point. I saw Steener's interview there. We're going to be hungry next year. This is a group that wants to win. There's a lot of core pieces that are going to be here for a while.

What as it like playing with no fans? 
Yeah, it's a challenge. I think momentum in a game was harder to come by. I think whether you're the home team or the visiting team, I think the fans kind of drive that energy, even if something goes the opposite way when the home team's going against you. The momentum was really hard to grab when something did go your way. It'll be nice to get fans back in the building because you grow up and you always want to play in front of 20,000 people. It's a lot more fun when you can feel the vibe and the energy in the building as opposed to having the artificial sound.

Half the time, you're not even looking at the screen because you forget that you're even there. It would be nice to kind of have that back. I'll tell you what, you miss that energy and I know it kind of sounds cliche, but you miss how great the fans are and the energy here because it's easy to kind of thrive off that when things are going well. ... In-game music wasn't the same when you didn't have the fans singing along with you. I was singing along with my teammates. It just wasn't the same.

Was it dull away from the game with amount of hotel time?
Yeah, it was dull, very dull. There wasn't really anything to do. Maybe for some guys, it was different, but someone like me or other guys who have kids who are used to kind of having that mindset of staying busy, I always have an escape. I can come home regardless of what happened the night before, the day before. I had that escape and kind of reset my mind and remember what was important. There, there wasn't a whole lot to do and you're kind of always thinking about hockey. It was really not to have that escape and not be able to go outside and do stuff. It became repetitive, but once we started playing a little bit more, things became easier because you had a bit of a distraction.

On Perron's comment about making pitch to keep you here, Perron said buy more houses and be a realtor. Do you like to critique housing market?
My dad did it and still does a little bit of that on the side, so I enjoy it. It's just kind of something I enjoy doing. Tell David that he can come pick up his suitcase anytime he wants because it's sitting in my garage. He might want to make fun of me, but I don't feel like hoarding his stuff any longer.

On Perron believes you want to stay here and they want you here, does that factor in the decision?
All that factors in. Ask any of my teammates how close I am with my family, not just my immediate family. I've got sister-in-laws, brother-in-laws, nieces and nephews (here). All that's stuff's important to me, but then again, they understand the business side of things and the situation that we're in. Look, if this decision was something that we weren't thinking hard about, we wouldn't be in this spot. I give my wife credit too for really allowing me to think hard about this because there's a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration here moving forward. It's not a fun thing to go through, it's not easy, but again, when you have a solid base at home, I've got my wife and my kids and my wife supports everything that I do, it makes the process a little bit easier because you can take your time, sit back and evaluate everything that needs to be evaluated to make the right decision.

What's the emotion looking at growing your legacy and perhaps doing it somewhere else possibly?
Obviously, I want to stay a Blue. Of course I do. It's the only place I've know in professional hockey. Legacy is obviously important. This organization means a lot to me. You see Al (MacInnis) come around, you see all the other alumni who are around regularly. That means a lot, right? It's guys who have a great relationship with the organization that have been around and have set their roots in St. Louis. But whether it's here or somewhere else, you want to play to the best of your ability and leave a legacy wherever you are. That goes along with on the ice and off the ice and try to impact the organization in the community. So whether it's here or anywhere else, I think it's important for me to really kind of set my roots wherever it is and I know my wife feels the same way.

Is there something to be said about the possibility of achieving what you achieved for another team as a Stanley Cup champion?
Yeah, you always want to challenge yourself, right? You want different challenges, but you can go to a place that hasn't won yet or won in a long time, challenge yourself to kind of help that organization, but then again, you can make the same argument here where we've won one Cup, why not challenge yourself to try and win another one? There's so many different ways to look at it, there's so many different ways you can kind of convince yourself to go one way or another. Now that I've won, you want to win again. Whether it's here or somewhere else, the goal is always the same. Those are always good ways to challenge yourself.

On picture of you and Perron with his arm around you:
I remember the moment. I guess when the game's over and I'm thinking the situation that I'm in, I know David and I are really close friends. I appreciated it. I think he understood when I was thinking at the time. I don't know, it might be the last time I wear the jersey and last time I play with him too. For him and I, we're close friends, we've been through a lot together, played a long time together. That's what friends and obviously he knows I think the world of him. I appreciated that. That's why you have friends and teammates that kind of helps you through things. I definitely appreciated it. 

Why is Perron's suitcase at your house?
He went home (to Quebec) to get his wife and his kids, so for some reason, I offered to take it home because we were neighbors in the hotel. I was just the easy person to grab it and we live close to each other. Maybe I'll open it up and see what he's got in there to see if he's got anything good.

Statue out front, number hanging in rafters, that ever enter your thought process when thinking about contract situation?
I think I need to accomplish more in order to get that, but for me personally, of course it matters. If we do come back to St. Louis or we stay in St. Louis, whatever it is, I know my wife would like to come back. You know what it's like marrying a girl from St. Louis, right? You're going to end up retiring here. Let's call it what it is. I think being able to take my kids down to games and they see that stuff would obviously be important to me. That always goes back to what you said, I'm always thinking about my family and what I can show my kids. That would obviously be something that would be special for sure.

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