ST. LOUIS — Saturday's news conference featuring the newly signed Alex Pietrangelo and St. Louis Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong was a virtual smile-fest.
Everyone was happy, the Blues for ending Pietrangelo's short holdout and Pietrangelo for receiving a seven-year contract extension worth $45.5 million.
"You want to see a smile? Come on back Oct. 15, first payday," joked Armstrong, whose team has made a solid commitment this summer with high-dollar extensions not only for Pietrangelo but also defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shattenkirk.
While he now has a lot bigger bank account, the 23-year-old Pietrangelo doesn't expect the money to change him.
"My ultimate goal is to help this team win," Pietrangelo said before taking the ice for his first training camp practice session. "It doesn't matter what my salary is or what anybody else's salary is. We're all here for the same goal -- and that's to bring a Stanley Cup to St. Louis."
Pietrangelo's play took a slight step back last season following a strong 2011-12 campaign that had people including him in the Norris Trophy talk. He welcomes the pressure of being counted on as a true franchise cornerstone, but says he won't be trying to rearrange his game to fit his new tax bracket.
"I've been playing big minutes for this hockey club for the last couple years," said Pietrangelo, one of two Blues to finish among the NHL's top 25 scoring defenseman in each of the last three seasons along with Shattenkirk. "I'm not going to change my game or change my personality because of everything that's happened this summer. I'm going to go out there and try to be the best player on the ice every night."
Pietrangelo has been in the Blues' top defense pairing for three seasons. After scoring 12 goals and 51 points in the full 2011-12 season, he had five goals and 24 points in 47 games a year ago. He has 29 goals and 121 points in 224 games with the Blues.
Armstrong spoke highly of this deep defense group, which now includes Pietrangelo for the next seven seasons, Bouwmeester for the next five and Shattenkirk for the next four. Also in the mix are veterans Roman Polak, Barret Jackman, Ian Cole and, potentially, veteran Ryan Whitney.
"As far as our defense, it's self-serving for sure but I think we have the best defense in the NHL," Armstrong said. "Our belief is that a team is built through the middle of the ice -- goaltending, defense, center icemen. I think we've had a seismic shift in commitment from the ownership group here in St. Louis over the last two years."
Pietrangelo said seeing that kind of commitment from the Blues ownership group led by Tom Stillman is extremely impressive.
"It was exciting to see," Pietrangelo said. "You're talking about some pretty key pieces here. Shattenkirk and Bouwmeester obviously could be No. 1 defensemen on any team. To put those guys into our top six with myself, Leopold, Jackman, and Roman, it's looking pretty solid right now."
Pietrangelo admitted to feeling a little left out during his brief holdout. He did remain in contact with his teammates, including captain David Backes.
"I think there's always a part of a player in a team sport that wants to be there with his teammates," Pietrangelo said. "It's certainly not an easy thing to go through watching them start up without me. At the same time, we were trying to focus on what we had to do and it was only two days, so I'm glad to finally be here."
While he leaned heavily on agent Don Meehan and the Newport Sports group, the decision to wrap things up belonged to Pietrangelo himself.
"I was behind getting it done the whole time," Pietrangelo said. "I wanted to be here and be a Blue, that was my ultimate goal. I had my representatives to bring me to the right direction. They're going to give me their ideas and their thoughts, but ultimately it comes down to what I want."
Even while Pietrangelo was skating and working out with other players in Toronto, his heart was in St. Louis.
"I don't think I've ever been in a closer dressing room than the one that we have here," he said. "It's fun getting to work and to sit down with these guys and to go into battle with them. Ever since I was 18, it's felt like a home to me.
"People have been fantastic in support of me. My family loves coming down here, my parents really enjoy it. I have a home here and this is where I'm going to call home."