Alex Pietrangelo has moved his talents to the Vegas Golden Knights, after turbulent contract talks with the St. Louis Blues. So much drama flooded the public that it’s hard to cypher through what was legit and what was BS. The general feeling was almost that Pietrangelo was almost using the public’s anger to his advantage in negotiations — trying to rile up the Blues fans to help motivate the Blues to offer more money. Say what you will about those tactics... Pietrangelo’s agent, Mark Guy, has reportedly had some turbulence with the Blues in the past, so seeing such aggressive pushing might not be as much of a surprise.
But the Blues aren’t entirely innocent themselves. They apparently refused to give Pietrangelo a full-NMC or any signing bonuses. This sounds like their MO; no Blues players have an NMC and only one player — Ryan O’Reilly, whose contract was signed by the Buffalo Sabres — has any sort of signing bonus. So to see them ignore Pietrangelo’s request for these isn’t surprising but it is upsetting. But are these issues worth losing your captain, and the man who ranked fourth in Norris Trophy voting? I really don’t think it is. More talks claimed that the Blues were offering much smaller deals, offering closer to $7 million a year for most of the talks but eventually finishing with an eight-year, $8 million offer — still around $400,000 less than Pietrangelo was expected to re-sign for.
It gets better, though. I know all of you know already but let me enlighten the uninitiated... a rumor from a few weeks ago went one step further, saying that the Blues told Pietrangelo and his agent that they needed to agree to the salary before any details of term (like term or bonuses). Do I believe this? Uh... no. I mean that’s ridiculous. There’s no way it can be true; I’ve never negotiated an NHL contract (not yet! Draft me!!) and even I know that that’s not how to do it. It’s insane and sounds phony as a $3 bill... but... who knows.
Fool Me Once
I don’t want to perpetuate that rumor, though. Especially not now that Pietrangelo is gone. But I can’t help but notice the strange trend. Every Blues fan remembers the drama that flew around the head of David Backes when his contract expired in 2016. Again, contract negotiations turned... turbulent, to say the least, and it resulted in Backes bouncing out of town. The dispute was money, with the Blues reportedly offering him much lower than the $6 million-per-year deal that he ended up signing. Obviously, Backes declined quickly with the new team and has hardly held on to a bottom-six role. But the sentiment is still there. The Blues lowballed their captain and let him walk with next-to-no issue. Was that the right move? Yeah, maybe.
Fool Me Twice...
But that wasn’t the only case of this happening. It happened back in the 90s too! Brett Hull — four year Blues captain, although he wasn’t captain when he left — had contract drama of his own! Whereas Backes had issues with salary, Hull had issues with a clause! That’s right, hockey Hall-of-Famer and Blues legend Brett Hull walked because of a no-trade clause.
There were other issues in play, apparently. Mike Keenan was still running the show at the time and, well, we all know how... fun he was. But newspaper reports from the time claim that the NTC was the only thing in the way. The Chicago Tribune published an article in ‘98 speculating whether the Blackhawks should throw an NTC Hull’s way in an effort to steal him from St. Louis, citing a St. Louis Dispatch article saying the clause was the defining issue of negotiations.
Backes had issues finding a salary that made him happy. Hull wanted a clause that St. Louis wouldn’t provide. Pietrangelo had trouble finding either. All three former-Blues captains walked in free agency, with seemingly little fight being put up. I mean, the Blues signed Torey Krug on day one! I know they needed to replace Pietrangelo but the former captain was apparently fairly upset when he heard Krug had signed in St. Louis, even though Pietrangelo hadn’t closed off negotiations just yet.
It’s a weird pattern. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times... well, I guess I’ll go and lose one of the best defensemen currently playing hockey.
But, again, it gets better. Ya see, Backes went on three playoff runs with Boston, including a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals (hahaha). Brett Hull... won the Cup the year after he left St. Louis. And it’s looking like Pietrangelo is following in those footsteps as well. Vegas is absolutely stacked, making it to the Western Conference Finals this past season before surprisingly losing to the fricken Dallas Stars. Now, they’ve added one of the best defensemen in the league. They’re easily Cup contenders. With Pietrangelo now apart of the fold, how high is their ceiling? They’re, at the least, a (relatively) safe team to put money on for the Cup!
This article is snobby. It’s pissy. And I’m sorry for that. That’s kinda my MO if you haven’t noticed yet. But isn’t this trend strange?? I can’t imagine there are any other teams who have consistently lost captains (or former captains) through hard-headed contract negotiations, all around the same issue. Could it be coincidence or a product of the Blues simply getting lucky with top-end talent? Yeah, maybe. But it’s a very strange trend nonetheless and one that I simply wanted to bring light to once again.
We’ll see how St. Louis rebounds from this big loss. With Krug’s signing, things look a bit lighter than expected. But with no cap space, can the team find a way to fight for more assets? Will moving Steen to LTIR open the door to more opportunities? Are more trades to be had?? I... can’t answer that. But Pietrangelo’s shoes were massive and Krug doesn’t perfectly fill them. No matter what, this is all one reason to be anxious for the 2020-21 season! Whenever it starts...