By Allan Muir
St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong was asked the other day why he and free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo couldn't simply split the difference in their long-running contract dispute, forge a deal and get the player into camp with his teammates.
Maybe the logic behind that question finally sank in.
Armstrong announced this afternoon that he had come to an agreement with Pietrangelo on a deal that will pay the All-Star defender $45.5 million over seven years. That's an average of $6.5 million per year -- the middle ground between the player's $7 million request and the team's $6 million bottom line. It's also identical to the deal Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson signed with the Ottawa Senators last summer.
To get the big payday, Pietrangelo had to sign away three years of free agency, but that's a minor giveback compared to what the Blues brought to the table. The team could have taken a hard line with the restricted free agent and used the leverage provided by the CBA to force him into a lower dough bridge contract. But Armstrong chose instead to make a bold statement of faith in Pietrangelo and what he means to the franchise, both now and down the road.
The Blues aren't just a better team with Pietrangelo in the lineup. They're a different team. Faster. Smarter. More effective with the puck and more tenacious without it.
With Pietrangelo, they're a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Without him, they're an early-round patsy. Why alienate a guy like that over a couple million bucks? It's a decision that won't win Armstrong many friends around the league (why yes, that is smoke coming out of Glen Sather's ears!), but it was the right one for his team. And it's a great one for Pietrangelo, who needs to show up at camp tomorrow and start proving he's worth not just the team's investment, but its faith.