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Why the Blues need to step up and find a way to keep Alex Pietrangelo around

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Whip up that magic one more time, Dougie!

St Louis Blues v Vancouver Canucks - Game Four Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Can I be honest with you?

The St. Louis Blues should have extended Alex Pietrangelo last summer when it was first allowed.

EDIT/UPDATE: When I first published this piece yesterday evening, I had no idea how severe and final the restricted label was on Pietrangelo. Less than a month after the Blues won the Cup, he was able to talk starting about the next contract with St. Louis.

The Blues should have just gotten it done then. Brace yourself for the future, but do so with arguably your most important player.

Please, don’t tell me he wouldn’t have been up for it then. The man was settled. Being the type of person and player he has long been in this town, a great number would have gotten him to sign on the dotted line. There’s no reports of that anywhere, at least not that I will provide you with here. It’s an opinion, which is what I do here.

Thursday night, Darren Dreger tweeted out the worst news possible for a Blues fan to see.

Read that tweet again. “broken off” and “advised Pietrangelo to pursue” are strong phrases, but I don’t think Dreger added any hyperbole to that tweet. It represents what we’ve heard for weeks now. Talks weren’t going the Blues way, and the player was disappointed in that. Jeremy Rutherford reported in a chat on The Athletic two weeks ago that contract extension discussions weren’t looking good. Can that change in a few weeks? I doubt it.

Here’s the thing. The offer of $7.7 for the annual average value without informing Pietrangelo of the term is a low ball maneuver for a team that has leaned on #27 for a long time. He hoisted Lord Stanley last spring, FFS. A guy who can contribute in a big way at both ends of the ice and is smart as a whip, and someone the team would run through a wall for.

I know it’s a lot of money, but remember that if the Blues don’t retain Pietrangelo, I really don’t think another Stanley Cup is won here-not for a while at least. If you think differently, one is not grasping the unique skill factor Pietrangelo brings to the Blues. Please, this is not comparable to the David Backes departure.

While they are/were great captains for the Blues, one is WAY more important than the other. Backes had a few nice seasons and was a Selke finalist on multiple occasions, but Pietrangelo is a key cog in this machine. In nine of the ten seasons, he’s played in over 85% of the Blues’ games. At the age of 22, Pietrangelo recorded 51 points with a +16 rating in 81 games. But, if you listened to a part of the Blues’ fanbase, he can’t possibly do that now.

This past season, Pietrangelo played in 70 games, recorded 52 points (16 goals), and added a +11 rating. He isn’t going to break down like Backes did, more likely turning into a Jay Bouwmeester type, who rebounded tremendously from a knee injury in the past year to be one of the team’s most reliable defensemen. Next year, they both could be gone, and that will leave the Blues in a bad state of affairs. This is a team that relies and thrives on its defense.

Colton Parayko isn’t ready to be the next Pietrangelo. Vince Dunn is nowhere near ready. Too raw. The kids coming up in the system can’t be expected to be Pietrangelo at least for 3-5 seasons. So what are you replacing him with? What’s your plan? Get a less defenseman to accept your lowball offer? Good luck.

I’m not giving up on Justin Faulk being a reliable player in St. Louis, but he can’t replace Pietrangelo. However, my mind couldn’t dismiss that notion when Doug Armstrong picked Faulk just a little under a year ago. A power play specialist who required a defense to run around his lead, Faulk was misused for the majority of this past season-or he simply didn’t have the room to even gallop correctly.

When Armstrong told the media and fans last month that the Blues had full intention on retaining Pietrangelo, I had a hard time buying it. Every other move they’ve made-waiting until the end to truly produce an offer and acquiring Faulk among them, points in the other direction. The Blues weren’t going to outright dismiss the idea, but something tells me they were already prepared for this possible shift in the team dynamic. What if his number got too high? (Hint: It really didn’t, unless you think $9.2 million is too much for your best player.)

Maybe I’m wrong. With, it’s such an often occurrence that I think about renaming my goal to basically being “not that stupid every day.” I’m the guy who told you a hockey player who didn’t even exist was being involved in the proposed Ryan O’Reilly trade with Buffalo. I told you that Robert Thomas was going along with Anderson (from “The Matrix” supposedly). I wanted the Blues to retain Backes and wrote an article saying the Steen extension worked (he didn’t drift to fourth line recycling so fast in my mind). When I tell you the Blues must find a way to widen their wallet because they can’t afford to lose Pietrangelo, it’s different. I can’t see any other way they get around this.

No one or thing could see a pandemic coming, not even Jon Hamm’s scarf. It was a global knockout that affected everyone in some capacity. The effect on the Blues could prove to be insurmountable. They waited to really get a deal done, and right now it’s costing them. Free agency opens on Oct. 9, which is less than three weeks away. Time is going to start ticking very quickly here as the fall rolls in a little early.

But there are people who think it can get done, or have a different outlook on what went wrong. A good follow of mine presented a thought-provoking retort this afternoon after I tweeted a tease of my new article.

Albert Pujols came to my mind as well. The Cardinals were the team that told fans they needed to make Pujols a lifelong Cardinal, and then proceeded to offer him a five year contract. Like, that doesn’t make sense at all. They lowballed Pujols, and lost him right there. Now, Pietrangelo isn’t at Pujols’ caliber, but the situation does smell similar. Teams waiting for their right time to keep a big time talent around, instead of just locking it in. See what the Blues did with Brayden Schenn on his extension. No wasted time or effort, but that could have been part of the plan all along.

While I’d like to believe what David proposed, I just can’t give Armstrong the benefit of the doubt here. He’s nailed a lot of great deals in recent years, righting previous wrongs. But this one just feels different. The doom seems closer than it appears on the calendar. For the first time, I am sensing hesitation and a lazy back foot in Armstrong’s movements, which is odd for this draft time sniper.

Alex Pietrangelo is simply too important to lose right now. Unless Armstrong pulls off another draft day miracle, the Blues will go from being a strong pick to repeat as champions to a team without Pietrangelo, a version of Vladimir Tarasenko that may be underwhelming, and no Bill Armstrong to find you another Pietrangelo out there in the dark forest of potential stars. They will be a weaker team.

Now isn’t the time to do that. Or is it? Maybe the Blues are going to unlock the kids here soon, and have planned for this change-up. No one knows what 2021 even looks like at the moment, so it could be a brand new world for Armstrong and company, like it is for everybody else.

But again, I can’t give them the benefit of the doubt this time. It doesn’t feel right, and this situation could have been avoided. It wasn’t years ago, but last July may have been the time to show him the money for real.

State your case in the comments below, because I need to refill my glass of bourbon.

HAT TIP to Curt Price (@curtprice on Twitter) for the headline idea change. Here’s the inspiration: