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How To Be A General Manager: Why Doug Armstrong couldn’t wait for Alex Pietrangelo to make a choice

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Would you rather Doug Armstrong came away with nothing?

In the wake of a move that all but seals the departure of Alex Pietrangelo, people are acting like the St. Louis Blues just reacquired Carlo Colaiacovo or something. (No offense, Carlo.)

Here’s the deal, or at least how I see it. General Manager Doug Armstrong did something he had never done with a free agent player. They offered Pietrangelo a partial No Movement Clause and even threw in a signing bonus. Again, two things majority owner Tom Stillman and Armstrong have ever done before during their time in St. Louis. Pretty cool, right?

They did that because, as I pointed out 2,727 times here, Pietrangelo is different. He just is. Don’t waste your precious oxygen arguing with me, because stats and facts live on my street in this town. The Blues offered Pietrangelo as much money as they could. In a year without COVID-19, Pietrangelo would have been re-signed weeks ago. The Blues lost money with the flat cap, cash intended to give Petro a healthy raise. A pandemic cancelled those plans just like they did with your vacation or expansion plans. Shit happens, and then there’s 2020.

The Blues couldn’t offer Pietrangelo the AAV (average annual value) that he wanted. It came down to that. Before Friday, the Blues could offer him the elusive yet treasured eighth year on a new contract, but their AAV was reportedly around $8. That would have been around a $1.5 million raise for Pietrangelo annually. To him, it wasn’t enough. For the Blues, it was all they could do.

I’m doing my due diligence here, because all I hear on social media is how Torey Krug isn’t Petro and it’s not enough. Excuse me. Krug was, for all intents and purposes, the second best defenseman on the market behind Pietrangelo. He’s a 50-point power play beast who definitely won’t allow Jamie Benn to sit on his head (sorry, Alex, but you did go down). Krug will break Benn in half and then write his family a nasty letter. He’s physical in the way that guys named Torey usually are not. A Michigan native, Krug was the guy who slammed into Robert Thomas during the Stanley Cup Final as hard as A-Train would, but according to young Bob, all should be well.

All is fair in hockey, love, and war after all. The same could be said for general managers, long-tenured players, and free agent negotiations. I knew Pietrangelo was gone the second talks broke down publicly via social media, and then further when Thursday night came and went without an offer.

It was about money. With top players, it always is. Every player can’t be like Pat Maroon and just take a decent check in order to go for another Stanley Cup. Most players, especially the elite kind, want to get paid. Pietrangelo wasn’t giving a hometown discount to St. Louis, and Armstrong knew it.

I may have missed some news, but did you see Tyler Bozak get traded or Alexander Steen agree to a buyout? Those things needed to happen. I didn’t expect Armstrong to trade Colton Parayko or Jaden Schwartz, because if it were true, the phone call with another team would last seconds instead of minutes. He offered Pietrangelo the best a team in the Blues position could, and the answer was no.

That’s it. All I wanted was for the Blues to move their limitations a little bit to try and sign Pietrangelo. That was performed, but to no avail.

This happens all the time, and it’s not personal. I am not sure how Pietrangelo was blindsided by this. Krug will make $2-3 million less than him annually, and is around a year younger. Those things add up when the clock is ticking. It’s not hard to figure out. Pietrangelo didn’t owe the Blues a thing, but Armstrong and St. Louis also owed him nothing. A hefty contract was paid and great performance was returned, along with a Stanley Cup acquisition in 2019.

Pietrangelo is a unique talent, but please don’t sleep on Krug. He may not be Petro, but he’s also not a chump. If the Blues want to get all the value out of Justin Faulk, they will pair him with Krug and unleash these two on the power play. Rethink the four forwards and one D-man arrangement. If you have a couple PP quarterbacks like Krug and Faulk, adapt to their strengths since they will be making a combined $13 million annually in the next few years.

Krug has recorded at least 44 points in each of the past five seasons. He played hard minutes in Boston, an ice and puck cathedral well known for being loud and opinionated about players, but that never bothered or applied to Krug.

Unlike the first round draft pick darling that Pietrangelo was, Krug went undrafted. He throws his weight around like Tom Cruise on the ice, but being undersized didn’t help him find a home nine years ago. There was a healthy chip on his shoulder by the time he became a great NHL defenseman, and it served him well. He plays the game like there’s no tomorrow, and that’s a solid tradeoff if there was no mutuality in the Petro-Blues discussions.

The sun came out today, and I am sure it will on the first day of training camp as Pietrangelo suits up for a different team. It’s not unfamiliar to Blues fans. Big players leave or get traded before fans have gotten their fill. In sports, the clock never stops moving, and that doubles in the offseason.

Armstrong had to make a move, because what if he waits on Pietrangelo and comes up with nothing in the end. The same fans who asked him to magically pull $2-3 million out of his ass will complain that he did nothing.

The truth is Armstrong rarely waits. He’s always a step ahead of his doubters and critics, something that continued this week. Right when you think he’s waiting on Pietrangelo to make a choice, he’s already working on a Krug deal. He waits for no one. There could be something else up his sleeve this fall, because that’s just how he operates.

There won’t be a Petro deal. Like I said last night, he officially becomes a super-powered being if that takes places. For now, he’s just a great GM. One I doubt constantly, but a guy who knows what he’s doing.

After all, there was a Stanley Cup won last year. Armstrong is prepping this team to make another run. Acquiring Krug before Pietrangelo could go elsewhere is proof of that. All I asked was for the team to remain Cup-worthy next season, and Krug allows them to stay in that spot.

Thanks for reading,