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RFA Pietrangelo to miss start of Blues training camp

Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 3:57 PM

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent / Training Camp 2013 blog

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Training Camp 2013 blog
RFA Pietrangelo to miss start of Blues training camp

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- There was no common ground to be found between the St. Louis Blues and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, despite the fact the two sides met well into the night Tuesday.

So when the Blues open training camp on Thursday, Pietrangelo will be a noticeable absentee from camp.

That's the news general manager Doug Armstrong gave Wednesday on the fourth pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, who is represented by Don Meehan of Newport Sports.

"He's not in training camp," Armstrong said of the 23-year-old Pietrangelo. "We've worked in earnest with his representatives trying to get him into training camp. We've talked about a lot of different options as far as a number of years.

"[Tuesday] night, we gave it a last-ditch kick at the can around eight or nine o'clock at night and it didn't hold. So from this point forward, he's not in camp and we treat him like an injured player. ... If he misses a week, a month, a year, we're not really sure, but he's not here now and we have to move forward."

So for the time being, talks have broken off between the two sides and the Blues will move forward without their top defenseman, who has 121 points in 224 career games.

"I was always hopeful a deal would get done," Armstrong said. "My experiences get me not to be disappointed in things like this. When you put your best foot forward to try and get something done ... we talked a while ago that a deal gets done when everyone gets uncomfortable. I was very uncomfortable [Tuesday] and it didn't get done.

"I probably had my best sleep last night than I've had in three weeks when I realized this deal wasn't going to get done because I felt that we had really had done what we could do to get it done, to get him in here today. Training camp's a very important time for a team. It wasn't able to get done, so now we move forward with the players that we have, and at some point we'll re-engage and see if there's a different option that wasn't there. We were focused in on a deal that had a lot of term. Maybe that's not going to happen. We'll have to find out."

Other young defensemen similar to Pietrangelo have missed part of training camp or longer while negotiations continued in recent seasons. The most recent was Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who missed six games last season before he signed a two-year "bridge contract" for $5.75 million. Armstrong indicated that a shorter-term deal is a possibility for Pietrangelo.

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who was selected two spots before Pietrangelo in 2008, missed most of training camp in 2011 before he got an eight-year, $56 million deal. Both Doughty and Subban are also represented by Meehan.

Some of the recent top-end defenseman that avoided any time missed or became holdouts include Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who signed a seven-year, $45.5 million extension last season, and Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larrson, who inked a six-year, $33 million extension that kicks in this season.

Pietrangelo isn't the only RFA defenseman currently scheduled to not be at training camp. The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have a contract with Cody Franson, and neither does the Ottawa Senators with Jared Cowan.

The Blues have established three deadlines in the Pietrangelo negotiations. The first was to get him signed by the opening of training camp, then the regular season and Dec. 1, which is the deadline to get restricted free agents signed or they will have to sit out the season according to a stipulation in the recent collective bargaining agreement. But should Pietrangelo receive an offer sheet, Armstrong was adamant again that the Blues would match it.

"At some point, Alex will sign here," Armstrong said. "There's really three options: He's going to sign with us, he signs an offer sheet or he doesn't play this year. Those are the three things. There's no fourth thing.

"He will be a Blue. I want to crystalize that for our fans and for 29 other poachers out there. He's going to be a Blue."

Armstrong said the recent conversations between he and Pietrangelo's agents focused on long-term contracts, but that the "bridge contract" is now something that's definitely in play. The Blues' GM also has spoken with Pietrangelo's father, Joe, in recent weeks.

"Our initial talks were that he felt most comfortable with a longer-term deal," Armstrong said. "As a core player, we wanted him here as a longer-term deal. But one of the things we have talked about is if it is a shorter-term deal, it doesn't mean he can't sign a long-term deal later. The goal is to get him in here.

"... If both sides feel short is the way to go, then short is the way to go. If both sides feel long is the way to go, we have to find the common ground where we're both comfortably uncomfortable."

It's believed that Pietrangelo's camp is seeking an annual average value of $7 million per season, in the range of Doughty's contract. But the Blues are believed have offered no more than $6 million.

When asked how big the gap is, Armstrong replied, "Big enough where he's not in camp.

"I'll take Alex's perspective: he thinks he's made us a hell of an offer. I disagree. We think we've made him a hell of an offer. He's disagreed. That's where we're at."

In the meantime, the Blues have brought in veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney on a professional tryout basis in case Pietrangelo isn't signed. The 30-year-old Whitney, who played for the Edmonton Oilers last season and is an unrestricted free agent, will be given the opportunity to battle with Ian Cole for the sixth spot.

"Whitney's certainly going to get consideration, as is Cole," Armstrong said. "That is one of those battles I think you have a pecking order on the roster, pecking order where you're going to be on the team.

"He's a player that when we were looking for that left shot 'D' we focused on last year, I think the style the Oilers play is certainly different than the style we play. We think that he can maybe play in our structure with a little bit more ease than that Oiler structure. Not saying that the Oiler structure is wrong and ours is right, but different horses for different courses. ... He wants to come in and be an impact moving forward. We now as of today provide an opportunity for that."

Quote of the Day

We want to make sure that whoever makes our team really makes our team by earning it and not putting them in situations where they get preference because of their status as a first-round pick or whatever it might be. That's not going to happen. Everybody has to earn their way on our team.

— Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on the team's prospects at development camp