Alex Pietrangelo is most likely not returning to the St. Louis Blues for the 2020-21 season, or the season taking place totally in 2021, but being labeled 2020-21 officially.
The reality sank in pretty hard after Doug Armstrong and the Blues signed former Boston Bruins defenseman, Torey Krug, to a seven year contract with a rich annual average value. During a Zoom call with local media, Armstrong left open the door for a miraculous Petro return, but that’s publicity stunting at its finest. He knows it’s over. In the end, the general manager did as good of a job with Pietrangelo as could be expected. It was a matter of money in the end.
Now, if Armstrong does find a way to sign both Krug and Pietrangelo, we’ll officially announce him as an alien from another planet.
Otherwise, it’s what it is, as an old time gangster would say, so it’s safe to say that Krug is in and Pietrangelo is out. So I wanted to take the column space here and just thank him for the time.
A lot of hockey players come through St. Louis. The painful cups of coffee like Wayne Gretzky, the short but sweet Grant Fuhr stretches, and the epic lovefests like Vladimir Tarasenko. Pietrangelo was drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft, and logged his first action during the following season. He started logging big boy minutes in 2010, and showed off a scoring touch quickly from the blue line.
But over the years, he became so much more. Once David Backes departed for Boston, Pietrangelo took over the captaincy and truly became an elite player, on and off the ice. Some will chop him down for failing to win a Norris Trophy, ignoring his four top 5 finishes. Many will remember the guy who made Brad Marchand look silly and hoisted Lord Stanley at the Garden.
He will be the guy who silenced Boston for one June night. The guy who logged the toughest minutes, took on the opposition’s finest talent. A guy who could defend the net, take the puck up the ice, and bury a shot in the net all inside a minute. He gave the Blues their first blue line double threat in many years. The rare blend of smarts, talent, and evolving leadership.
Pietrangelo wasn’t perfect, but man he sure was close. He didn’t appreciate the boos that were showered upon the players in rare moments during his career, even early on in that Stanley Cup run season. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind to the press, even if it had a negative effect on his reputation. Petro was authentic, a rarity in a modern game where even the very good players are unknown to casual hockey fans.
758 regular season games. 109 goals and 341 assists. 3662 shots on goal. 92 career playoff games with 51 points, including one where skated so fast past Marchand that his tiny mustache wavered a bit. All in blue and gold, home whites and road blues, with the blue note draped across the chest.
Billy Bean was right about getting romantic with a sport, but he wrongly limited it to baseball. Hockey is the same push and pull mechanism with fans, with players getting their feet caught in fans’ heartstrings. A team brings in a star, shows him off to the audience, and demands you buy all his merch. But there’s no certainty that he will stick around until the end. Fans will give a player like Pietrangelo a piece of their heart, and that’s a hard deal to break after a decade of service.
Some make a dent during their time. Pietrangelo made a big one, both on and off the ice. He was the guy who shaved his head to inspire a young kid who was fighting cancer. He’s been the ambassador for the Blues team in this city. If the Blues had a Yadi, it would be Petro. Both give you the easy to digest stats along with the intangibles that ignite wars on social media between Blues fans only.
You can argue over the exact measure of their impact, but refusing to call it substantial is a flat out lie. You can hear the bittersweet nature of Armstrong’s comments about Pietrangelo’s future tonight with the media. While he preached that the door wasn’t shut, there was a realization in his words that suggested the end was reached.
Last Army comment on Pietrangelo possibility: "You'd have to get creative. The likelihood isn't great, but if I ever got the call that he wanted to see if we could make it work, I'd certainly put pen to paper and see if there was a way we could do it." #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) October 10, 2020
I could rage on about this very possible exit, but what’s the point? The only thing that follows national media’s Patrick Mahomes article count are my volume of “Keep Petro no matter what” articles. He was different in my eyes. Someone that was indeed worth a partial no movement clause, something Armstrong and Tom Stillman hadn’t done once in their time here. Armstrong met Pietrangelo’s terms as much as his team could, but he knew when to back out and fill the need. Once again, he was the master businessman, the mind above emotion.
I can respect that. Being able to get ten years of Pietrangelo helps. The sight of him raising Lord Stanley certainly helps. Knowing that the business aspect of sports is always capable of choking out the emotional element helps in a painful way. This is the way it goes, most of the time. Players come and go.
Pietrangelo was different, and I thank him for that.
It’s the end of an era tonight, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll raise a glass to #27. Long may you run.