Alex Pietrangelo is here to stay, but it’s not guaranteed he will stay.
The rookie defenseman played his ninth NHL game of the season Thursday night against Phoenix. It’s been written many times, but I’ll mention it again, if Pietrangelo plays his 10th game on Saturday night or whenever, it will count as a full year toward the Blues owning his rights.
What that means is this: When an NHL team drafts a player, that club owns his rights for seven years. When he plays his 10th game in one season, the clock starts on those seven years. It may not seem like a big deal now, but in 2016, when Pietrangelo is 26, the difference of him becoming a restricted free agent or an unrestricted free agent is a big difference.
I mentioned in my Blues’ chat Thursday that the team would likely issue a press release following Pietrangelo’s ninth game, acknowledging that he is staying. That will NOT happen.
The Blues are not going to make an announcement, and here’s the reason: Pietrangelo will stay with the team and he is expected to exceed nine games and probably stay for the year, but there’s still a chance (albeit a small chance) that the Blues could send him back to juniors at any time . . . after 15 games, 30 games, 45 games.
The Blues’ position is that they don’t want to make an announcement saying that Pietrangelo is staying for the year and then have to send him back for WHATEVER reason.
The club realizes that the clock will start on Pietrangelo, and it would be viewed as an unwise decision to waste a year by sending him back to juniors, but that’s the window the Blues are leaving themselves.
(For those who are wondering, Pietrangelo can not play in Peoria this season until his junior season with the Niagara Ice Dogs is completed. That is a rule that protects junior teams from having NHL clubs stash their players away in the minors).
My take: I understand that NHL teams don’t want players to get too comfortable. But I think Pietrangelo has shown enough maturity and dedication over the past summer that he wouldn’t slack off if he were told that he was staying in St. Louis for the entire season. In fact, Pietrangelo would probably benefit from being off probation. That’s basically what it is . . . probation. Since last September, he has been living in a suitcase, not knowing where he would be the next week.
The Blues have every intention in keeping him in St. Louis all year. Perhaps their motivation for not making it official has nothing to do with whether Pietrangelo would get too comfortable. Perhaps they’re staying mum because they don’t know if their defensive depth will stay healthy, or if they’ll be able to trade some of that depth. If those are the reasons for staying quiet, that’s understandable.
Still, it would be nice for Pietrangelo to unpack his bags.