HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Alex Pietrangelo was all smiles Saturday morning, and for good reason.
As recently as Thursday, the St. Louis Blues defenseman was having a hard time hearing news about his teammates skating on the ice together in St. Louis while he sat back wondering if a contract he and the Blues felt comfortable with would get consummated in a timely manner.
So instead of dragging himself and the Blues through a long, drawn out and a potentially uncomfortable situation by going through any sort of prolonged period without a deal, he sat at a table with general manager Doug Armstrong with plenty of reason to feel good.
Pietrangelo put the finishing touches on the seven-year, $45.5 million contract he and the Blues agreed to Friday by applying his signature Saturday morning before taking the ice for his first training camp practice.
The deal has an average annual value of $6.5 million over the next seven seasons and has a no-trade clause kick in when Pietrangelo, now 23, turns 27. He'll make $5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2014-15, $6.5 million in 2015-16, $7 million in each of the next three seasons and $7.5 million in 2019-20.
The King City, Ontario native has finished in the top 25 in scoring among defensemen in each of the past three seasons. Pietrangelo and teammate Kevin Shattenkirk are two of the five who have done so. The others are Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.
"I think there's always a part of a player that's in a team sport that wants to be there with his teammates," Pietrangelo said Saturday morning. "It's certainly not an easy thing to go through watching them start up without me, but at the same time, we're trying to focus on what we have to do. It was only a few days, but I'm finally glad to be here.
"Ultimately, I wanted to be a St. Louis Blue for a long time. This is something that makes sense to me, makes sense to my family. ... This is where I'm going to call home. Certainly a great place to live, great sports city, very supportive fans. Nothing but excitement to be back here for seven years."
Pietrangelo said the process of contract negotiations was a learning experience. Along with family support, his representatives, led by Don Meehan of Newport Sports, helped him through his first extended contract negotiation.
"I got my representatives that are going to help me, guide me in a direction," Pietrangelo said. "Ultimately, the decision is mine. Me and my family came to the final conclusion. I obviously have a supporting cast behind me. I ultimately made the decision to get here today.
"Obviously it's a relief to get it done. I think I've been all smiles since yesterday when things finally got announced and I was on the plane on the way down here. To be at the rink and to see everyone in the organization from coaches to management to the players, it's extremely exciting. Now that I've been here for a few hours, it almost feels like I didn't miss anything."
Pietrangelo, who's been keeping up to speed while skating in the Toronto area, flew into St. Louis on Friday night and was gushing about the prospects of getting back on a defensive unit that is arguably one of the best in the NHL.
With Pietrangelo signed for seven seasons, along with having Jay Bouwmeester signed for the next six and Kevin Shattenkirk for four, the Blues have made what they feel is a necessary commitment to fortify their blue line.
"As far as our defense -- self-serving for sure -- I think we have the best defense in the NHL," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "I'm excited to have an opportunity to work with these guys. I'm excited to watch them perform. I think that when we go into any building, teams are going to say, 'Wow, that's a heck of a team they have ... offense coming from the back end.'
"We pushed, we pulled, we prodded, we both got extremely uncomfortable and said, 'Yes, let's get a deal done.'"
"To see that commitment from Tom [Stillman] and the ownership group, it's obviously very appealing to a player who's looking to commit somewhere long term," Pietrangelo said. "It was exciting to see that come from the ownership. Obviously the fantastic people that Tom has put together and that group, yeah you're talking about some pretty key pieces here on any team. [Shattenkirk] and [Bouwmeester] obviously could be No. 1 defensemen on any team. Like Doug said, to put those guys into our top six with myself, [Leopold], [Jackman] and Roman, it's looking pretty solid right now and obviously with the commitments that we have with some of the forwards up front for a few more years, it's looking like a pretty good team here moving forward and we're extremely excited to finally get this going."
Now that Pietrangelo is being paid like one of the top players in the game, he said the key is to stay the same.
"I think you have to treat it the same way," Pietrangelo said. "Obviously I've been playing big minutes for this hockey club for the last couple years. I'm not going to change my game or change my personality because of what's happened this summer. I'm going to go out there and be the best player on the ice every night.
"My ultimate goal is to help this team win. It does't matter what my salary or what somebody else's salary is. We're all here for the same goal and that's to bring the Stanley Cup to St. Louis."
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