On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Craig Custance published a breakdown of every team’s free agency moves so far, as analyzed by NHL GMs (subscription required). It’s well worth the read if you’re a subscriber - it feels like it’s rare to get opinions from NHL execs about one of the most important times of the year for teams. Most analysis come from pundits and journalists; the guys on the front lines of the signings are going to have a significantly unique take.
If you scroll down to the section on the Blues, you come across this comment from one GM:
Krug is a great player but one exec did raise concerns about going seven years on a player approaching 30.
“If you look at some of the underlying metrics (on Krug and Pietrangelo), both guys are starting to inch closer to the cliff,” he said. “I understand it if you’re St. Louis. But they signed Faulk and it was probably a mistake to sign him to that deal. Then you basically sign a left-handed version of Faulk … it seemed sort of vindictive and short-sighted to me.”
This is a take that probably goes against the grain - other GM’s Custance spoke to considered the Krug signing a smart move, though they were still slightly critical of the Justin Faulk signing which more than likely hindered their ability to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.
Saying that signing Krug and Faulk was vindictive is an interesting opinion. Short-sighted? The Faulk portion possibly was, especially if Armstrong was operating from the view that they’d still be able to work something out with Pietrangelo. If, however, he traded for Faulk based on earlier off-season negotiations with Pietrangelo’s agent - and if those talks weren’t going anywhere - it makes more sense. It’s not short-sighted to read the tea leaves.
It’s also not vindictive to try to do what you feel is best for your team if you feel like your star free agent is not re-signing. It’s either shore up your defense by signing Krug, who was the second-best UFA defenseman on the market, or you wait around, Pietrangelo walks, and you don’t have a capable defenseman to replace him with.
To say that Krug and Faulk are the same player isn’t really fair either, but having “well, they signed a player close to 30 to a seven year deal” as the cornerstone of your argument is weak. Pietrangelo is 30, and was just signed to an eight-year deal by Vegas, a deal that’s neigh unmovable. Krug is 29, and the Blues signed him to a seven year deal that included a modified NTC that allows for the possibility that if he needs to be traded toward the end of his contract, he can be.
Perhaps an argument that signing Faulk was short-sighted can be made. Signing Krug, however, was not. Nor was it a personal jab at Pietrangelo, which is what the word “vindictive” strongly implies. It was a hockey decision that Armstrong had to make in the face of the likely loss of Pietrangelo. Signing Faulk was more than likely a sign that Armstrong wasn’t confident in talks at the start of last season; the situation didn’t change, and now the Blues have Torey Krug.
If Faulk would’ve had a productive season with the Blues, the words “short-sighted” wouldn’t be tossed around as much. “Vindictive,” however, shouldn’t even be part of the Pietrangelo situation’s lexicon.