The truly awful thing about professional sports - at least, if you’ve hitched your wagon to a team - is that you’re not really allowed to be happy for the long term. It’s part of the business, of course. If a team and its fans allowed themselves to be content, no one would ever try for that rare repeat championship. One would be good. It would take the fire out of the game.
Complacency is a hell of a thing. It shouldn’t happen, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with making sure that the pieces of your organization that got you to a championship are able to hang around for a while afterward. Doug Armstrong has done a solid job of bringing back nearly the entire Stanley Cup winning team as last season, save for Pat Maroon. The lines in camp this weekend have, at times, born a striking resemblance to those that the team rolled in game seven three months ago.
Now, imagine those lines and those defensive pairings without Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo.
Unfortunately, both players are in the last years of their contracts. Pietrangelo is in the last year of a seven-year contract that nets him $6.5 million a season. Schenn is in the final year of a four-season contract that pays $5,125,000 a season.
No one knows how much the cap is going to increase by, but it’s going to take some expert management on Armstrong’s part to retain both players. If one or both are re-upped during the course of the season, it means that one or more of the other pending UFAs are gone. Jay Bouwmeester’s $3,250,000 are probably safely off of the books after this season. Joel Edmundson (and his $3,100,000) is more of a question mark. Losing them both would be enough to net both Pietrangelo and Schenn a raise.
On the other hand, they’re both entering their final season right after winning the Stanley Cup. Both players put in excellent performances in the playoffs and - after the team stabilized - the regular season. The Blues just may simply not be able to afford both players and Armstrong may have to make a difficult decision.
Of course, right now everyone’s officially focused on training camp and the new season and contract talks not being a distraction and all of that good stuff. Neither player wants to talk about it anymore, but that’s not going to prevent fans and the front office from wondering what type of deal is possible and when it’s going to happen.
“Both of those guys are going to be playing next year and the St. Louis Blues are going to have a team next year. Hopefully we’re all together, but we’ll just let that play itself out.”
Doug Armstrong isn’t wrong, but it’s going to be tough to not wonder if Schenn and Pietrangelo will be playing with the Blues next season. Putting it out of our minds and enjoying the ride is easier than it sounds.