Blues still hoping to get Pietrangelo signed sooner rather than later

News-DemocratSeptember 4, 2013 

— In some of his strongest words yet during the negotiation process with restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong on Wednesday reiterated his desire to get a deal done as soon as possible.

The 23-year-old Pietrangelo finished out a three-year entry level contract at the end of last season. Blues training camp opens on Sept. 12 and Pietrangelo, one of the largest puzzle pieces on the roster, remains unsigned and it's unclear when the stalemate will end.

"I wouldn't say we're disappointed," said Armstrong, who was given the new title of president of hockey operations by the club Wednesday to go along with his GM duties. "We're having constant dialogue now. We would like him to be signed, he would like to be signed also.

"This isn't a one-way street on either side. Both sides want to do something that they're comfortable with. Probably both sides will end up doing something they're both a little bit uncomfortable with."

Armstrong remains in close contact with Pietrangelo's agent, Don Meehan of Newport Sports Management. The Blues' GM also spoke with Pietrangelo recently when both were in Calgary for team Canada's Olympic orientation camp.

"We've made it very clear since the summer that Alex will be a St. Louis Blue when he plays hockey again," Armstrong said, also heading off any potential rumors that another team may try to sign Pietrangelo with a high-dollar offer sheet. "We've kept enough cap space to address any team that thinks that they can poach him from us. That won't happen, he'll be a St. Louis Blue whether it's this weekend, two weeks, two months, a year from now ... time will tell.

"But we hope to get it done as quick as possible. We have enough cap space to match anything and we have the ability to do more things if we need more cap space."

Why is this deal taking so long?

"There's ebbs and flows in different deals and this was one where it's taken a little bit of time to get some serious traction," said Armstrong, who cautioned reporters not to jump to conclusions regarding the length of the contract or the financial details. "Hopefully we're getting that traction now."

Armstrong mentioned three potential deadlines -- the start of camp, the regular season opener Oct. 1 and the final one on Dec. 1. That's the date where an unsigned restricted free agent must sign or risk sitting out the entire season.

"I'm not even thinking about holding out," Pietrangelo told a Canadian Press reporter last week. "I'm thinking about training camp and being there Sept. 11, 12, whenever we're going to start up, and be ready for the first game of the season."

Other Meehan clients have been holdouts, including Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban a year ago. Subban eventually signed a two-year "bridge" contract and then went on to win the Norris Trophy.

Kings defense star Drew Doughty sat out the 2011 preseason before signing an eight-year, $56 million deal. Subban and Doughty both are Meehan clients.

"They are one of the most powerful agencies with a lot of players and they certainly know what they're doing," Armstrong said. "I'm confident in my ability and our ability as an organization to know what we're doing, too. We have to get this done at some point for Alex, for us. When that date is, I'm not sure."

Another young defenseman of comparable age and talent potential, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, got a six-year, $33 million deal from Phoenix.

Pietrangelo, the fourth overall pick in 2008, has 29 goals and 121 points in 219 NHL games. He remains vital to the Blues' future.

"I find in almost every negotiation the player wishes he could have gotten a little bit more and the team wishes they could have got him for a little bit less," Armstrong said. "That's usually the time to make the deal.

"We're not going to be able to fulfill everything that Alex wants and Alex is not going to be able to give us everything that we would like to have in this negotiation. We want it done where he believes he's paid fairly and where we believe we're paying him fairly."

Armstrong did broach the possibility the Blues may have to bring other defensemen to camp.

"I think we've been clear on what we think of Alex as a person and as a player," Armstrong said. "We want him here for the long term and we've made adjustments to our roster to ensure that we can keep him here."

Armstrong, who has been the Blues' GM since 2010, earned a promotion Wednesday along with former Blues defenseman Bruce Affleck. Affleck was promoted to President of Business Operations and now also holds the title of Alternate Governor along with Armstrong.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or on Twitter @NormSanders

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