Whenever the St. Louis Blues make a deal or extend a player these days, the immediate reaction is, “OH NO! Petro is gone!”
It’s not entirely out of place or unfitting. Alex Pietrangelo, captain and logger of high quality minutes for the defensive until, is integral to this team’s success. Take him away and you can’t just slide another player into his role so easily. Without him, this team doesn’t win last year’s Stanley Cup and isn’t close to contending this season before its pause last month.
With the team’s announced extension of Marco Scandella on Thursday, many fans reacted with their worst fears about losing Pietrangelo. But they shouldn’t be too worried. While no one can crawl inside the head of Pietrangelo and his agent right now, it’s not hard to extract the mindset being held by him and several other free agents right now: when will I play and when will I get paid for the next set?
Here’s the thing. Scandella’s $13.1 million deal over 4 years basically replaces Jay Bouwmeester’s money from this current season, essentially adding $25,000 to the annual average value. In getting a younger Bouwmeester-type with better knees who fit in perfectly a couple months ago upon his arrival, the Blues assured themselves of some defensive depth on the left side.
Sure, the (very young) Scott Perunovich is waiting in the wings, but I wouldn’t expect him anytime soon. If you don’t have to rush a young kid into the NHL, keep him fresh and ready in the minors. Same goes for Niko Mikkola, who will get his shot. There’s no reason to push these young guys too hard if there are established talents already in place.
Scandella’s mark was left on this team very quickly. Some players just go to a team and slide in nice and easy to what that particular team system wants to do. Paired with the offensive minded Colton Parayko, the journeyman defenseman was a valuable preventer for the Blues. He only tallied a single point, but prevented plays in each zone of the ice. Smart with the puck and highly athletic without an ounce of fear, Scandella protected the net and didn’t make a lot of mistakes. He did his job and then some.
Now, did he do it to the tune of a four year extension? Yes and no. But his projected contract was right around what he got, and the Blues added some sweetener in term to make it stick. Now, back to Pietrangelo and how the effect of this deal shouldn’t hurt his St. Louis prognosis.
I really don’t think Armstrong would extend a player like Scandella as a reactionary movement to the resistance of Pietrangelo’s camp balking at his demands. It just doesn’t work that way. Odds are that #27 and his agent are looking at all kinds of options right now, including a possible shorter term deal due to the pandemic. The esteemed Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic elaborated on this in his latest column (very well worth the subscription), but also put it out there on Twitter:
Couple things:— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) April 16, 2020
- IF cap goes down significantly, Pietrangelo MIGHT have to take shorter-term deal now and get longer one in a couple of years when cap goes up. That's going to be the case w/Blues or any team.
- Mikkola/Perunovich will be rookies. Experience needed on left side.
Pietrangelo may not find that contract that pays him around $9 million per season, which would be $2.5 more than his 2019-20 paycheck. It may not be out there if the cap does go down and the entire league is affected.
Or you could backload Pietrangelo’s new contract. In a couple years, Alexander Steen and Jake Allen will be gone. Same goes for Tyler Bozak. That’s $15 million available. Players like Vince Dunn will need their payday, but that can be dealt with through other moves and adventures. The team will be hard-pressed to find a trade partner for Steen due to his full no trade clause, but they could re-negotiate his final season or buy him out somehow. It’s been done before. The team could also ride Allen’s great season and find a trade partner this summer. The Seattle draft could snap a player up as well.
A lot of things can happen and if any general manager in the league can spin magic out of a place where wands don’t usually exist, it’s Armie. He’s done it before and will do it again. He didn’t extend Scandella at the cost of losing Pietrangelo. A man can give Patrik Berglund a couple extra extensions, but he wouldn’t make a foolhardy move like that. Let’s give him credit for what’s been done the past few seasons off the ice.
Is there a world out there where Armstrong does feel retaining Pietrangelo is becoming far-fetched? Sure. There always will be such a thought process. I said it when Justin Faulk was signed. There’s a *small* chance that Armstrong is loading up on defense and prepared to make Parayko the new Petro. I just don’t believe in that. I believe that a deal between Pietrangelo and St. Louis is inevitable. Even if it’s a ballooned up pillow contract in order to get back to normal, I still think it gets done.
What the Blues got yesterday is a crafty defenseman who works very well in their system and should prevent plenty. He was a +14 overall last season for three different teams, but I think St. Louis brought out his most value.
They got a fine replacement for Bouwmeester without brokering the future. That’s it.