With 20 years under his belt as an NHL executive, St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong learned long ago that setting deadlines in contract negotiation rarely leads to quick results.
"I don't make any deadlines because once you pass the deadline you're going to go back on your word or you've painted yourself in a corner," said Armstrong, whose last remaining task to complete the Blues' roster this summer is negotiating a deal with restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. "Our goal is to get Alex signed prior to training camp --and I hope that's his goal, too."
Even the start of training camp in mid-September isn't a firm deadline since talks between the Blues and Pietrangelo's agent, Don Meehan of Newport Sports Management, could carry both sides beyond that if things get sticky.
Armstrong has been diligent and consistent in his remarks where Pietrangelo is concerned and remained so on Tuesday. Earlier this year, he vowed that the Blues would match any offer sheet should another team try to line up a high-dollar deal for the 23-year-old defenseman.
That hasn't materialized.
"Each contract has it's own certain dynamics and Alex's representatives and myself are talking about a lot of different options," Armstrong said, "but it's going to have to be one that both sides are comfortable with. I don't think Alex will sign if he feels that it's win-lose in the Blues' favor --and I know the Blues won't sign if it looks like a win in his favor."
Armstrong insists that signing veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to a five-year, $27 million contract extension -- which came even knowing Bouwmeester was already under contract for the 2013-14 season --is not linked in any way to the Pietrangelo deal.
"To me there's no correlation between the two," Armstrong said. "Our goal is to be a very competitive team this year and moving forward. I don't think anyone's played any more minutes in the NHL than Jay Bouwmeester since 2002. He has a commodity that's hard to find, playing 25 to 28 minutes a night and not getting injured. Knock on wood, that's what we'll have for the next six years."
But how many years will the Pietrangelo contract cover?
A less experienced young star defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Phoenix Coyotes, received a six-year, $33 million contract. Ekman-Larsson was the sixth overall pick in 2009, while Pietrangelo was the fourth overall pick in 2008.
In 224 games, Pietrangelo has 29 goals and 121 points, including his breakout 2011-12 season when he racked up 12 goals and 51 points to attract attention as a potential Norris Trophy candidate.
Pietrangelo had five goals and 24 points in 47 games last season, then had one goal and one assist in the first-round playoff loss to Los Angeles.
The 22-year-old Ekman-Larsson has 17 goals and 67 points in 178 games.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, also 23, was taken eight spots after Pietrangelo at 12th overall in the 2008 draft. The Sabres signed him to a seven-year, $38.5 million extension, then watched his production dip from 11 goals and 48 points during his NHL Rookie of the Year season in 2009-10 to three goals and eight points in 39 games last season.
"We think Alex is really an exceptionally strong player," Armstrong said. "He's basically living up to his draft status. When you go in the top five in the draft there are expectations and he's exceeding those expectations. He's only 23 years old and he's progressing."
The Blues' search for a left-handed defense partner for Pietrangelo ended after they traded for Bouwmeester late last season.
They also locked up another young star defenseman by giving Kevin Shattenkirk a four-year, $17 million extension and signed veteran Jordan Leopold to a two-year deal.
"It's an important contract for the organization, but it's nothing out of the norm of what I've done n the past," Armstrong said of the Pietrangelo negotiations. "There's a lot under the surface on these negotiations and it's probably better to stay under the surface. I don't think the fans really want to hear any more whining about economics, they want to see hockey.
"He'll get done when he gets done and that's all I can say about it."