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St. Louis Blues: What’s next for captain Alex Pietrangelo as free agency nears?

 St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo carries the Stanley Cup after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
St. Louis Blues' Alex Pietrangelo carries the Stanley Cup after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, June 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (KY3)
Published: Aug. 23, 2020 at 7:22 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2020 at 2:00 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KY3) - Alex Pietrangelo captained the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship last year.

Now, with NHL free agency less than a week away, all eyes are on his future with the franchise.

The St. Louis Blues were eliminated from the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in August, ending their chance for a Stanley Cup repeat. When the Blues were eliminated, it also marked the last game for Pietrangelo on his current contract, a seven-year, $45.5 million contract deal that took effect in the 2013-14 season.

Pietrangelo is set to become an unrestricted free agent later this week unless he agrees to a new contract extension with the Blues. There have reportedly been some discussions and offers in recent weeks, but it’s unclear exactly where both sides stand.

Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic reports the Blues' latest offer is believed to be eight years with an average salary of $8 million. According to the report, “sources say this is less than Pietrangelo is willing to accept.”

In mid-September, TSN in Canada reported a stalemate in contract talks between the St. Louis Blues and their captain. According to the report, the Blues had “advised Pietrangelo to pursue unrestricted free agency.”

As NHL free agency begins Oct. 9, these are the latest reported contract developments between Pietrangelo and the Blues.

Pietrangelo’s last contract had an average annual value of $6.5 million. It’s likely that the two-time All Star, coming off a fourth-place Norris Trophy finish for the league’s best defenseman, seeks something larger for his next contract.

While free agency looms ahead, the NHL salary cap could certainly factor into Pietrangelo’s future plans.

The NHL salary cap will stay flat at $81.5 million for 2020-21 season and possibly longer. The league considered increasing salary caps to somewhere between $84 million and $88.2 million prior to the pandemic, but will ultimately keep it flat for the upcoming season.

The Blues have committed nearly $76.3 million to 22 players for the upcoming season, per CapFriendly.com. This leaves the team with nearly $5 million in cap space.

After trading backup goaltender Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens last month, the Blues were able to shed some salary. However, in the case Pietrangelo returns at a larger annual value, the Blues will likely need to eliminate at least one more contract to stay below the cap.

An extension could have implications on future salaries of other players from the Stanley Cup core, even if the salary cap increases after 2021.

The Blues have control of veterans Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Alexander Steen for only one more year. All three will make at least $5 million in the final year of their contracts. Goaltender Jordan Binnington also enters a contract year with a $4.4 million clip.

St. Louis will also need to make a decision on defenseman Vince Dunn. He can sign an offer sheet with any team as a restricted free agent, but the Blues can retain him with an extension or by matching a possible offer from another team.

Within the next year, the Blues will not only be challenged with Pietrangelo’s contract situation, but the depth they may be able to retain around him if the 30-year-old blueliner returns.

In 12 seasons with the Blues, Pietrangelo ranks among the franchise’s Top 10 in games played (688, eighth-most) and assists (305, fifth-most). He’s averaged 47 points and 24-plus minutes of ice time per game in each of the past seven seasons. The experience won’t be easy for the Blues to replace if he departs.

The captain’s call remains to be determined, but he headlines this year’s NHL free agency class as one of the coveted players and arguably the top defenseman who could test the market.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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