Restricted free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo remains one of the biggest names yet to come to terms on a contract extension. The goal for Pietrangelo and the St. Louis Blues is to negotiate a new deal prior to training camp on Sept. 12, but time is obviously becoming a factor in meeting that deadline.
It's been reported that the two sides have been discussing an eight-year, maximum term contract but have failed to find common ground on the annual compensation of such an agreement. TSN's Bob McKenzie indicates that Pietrangelo's camp is looking for a $7 million annual average value, while the Blues are looking for something closer to $6 million.
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that the two sides might opt for a short-term contract that would pay Pietrangelo $3 million annually.
The concept of the "bridge" contract has been a common theme in restricted free agent negotiations this offseason, as several teams have shied away from giving young players long-term, big money contracts. This was the case last year with the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman P.K. Subban, who settled for a two-year, $5.75 million bridge deal. Subban ultimately went onto win the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman and is now expected to receive a substantial raise in his next deal over the span of a maximum term agreement.
It remains to be seen if this is a course the Blues and Pietrangelo will explore, but they will need to get a deal done by Dec. 1 or Pietrangelo will not be eligible to play in 2013-14. It's safe to assume neither side is interested in that. Based upon reports from McKenzie and Rutherford, the two sides have managed consistent communications, which is seemingly a positive sign of progress.
In the short-term, multiple reports have indicated that the team will bring a defenseman to training camp on a tryout offer. Andy Strickland tweeted on Wednesday night that the Blues were likely to extend a PTO to an unrestricted free agent defenseman, which McKenzie tweeted was Ryan Whitney. Rutherford wrote that the team might also consider extending invites to Ron Hainsey, Hal Gill, Tom Gilbert, Ryan O'Byrne, Jim Vandermeer and/or Radek Martinek.
Manager Doug Armstrong stated that the rationale behind such a decision was not to replace Pietrangelo, but to properly maximize the potential of training camp, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"We're not going to replace Alex in eight days. We're not going to replace him in eight years. Our goal is to get him signed and when we get him signed, he'll be here.
"But we do have to have the proper amount of players to run practices and to make sure that we're getting what we want out of those exhibition games. We want players getting ready to play, but we don't want to overburden them. With him out, is it going to increase the burden on other players or do we find a way to fill that from the outside?"