May 2, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) takes a shot against the Los Angeles Kings in game two of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues Doug Armstrong Focused on Alex Pietrangelo and Offseason Needs

The St. Louis Blues are not a cap team.  So what does that mean for the future of some of the brightest defensive talent on their roster?

Well, it simply means this is going to be a tough offseason for Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

 

Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk deserve raises, but the question of how much of a raise is necessary will be the topic of discussion for the offseason.

Hopefully, Armstrong is able to lock up both Petro and Shatty before any offer sheets are given to the two young prospects, but Armstrong does not think that will be an issue.

Offer sheets aren’t a concern.  It’s part of the business and you know that they’re there. But the salary cap is coming down, and the mechanisms that would drive teams away, that’s not available in the new CBA….  If there’s an offer sheet there, we’re very content with where we are with the NHL salary cap, we’re going to be able to match any offer and we will. These are core players that we’re not going to let go.

So while many Blues fans may be waiting for news of a new contract for Pietrangelo or Shattenkirk, don’t count on one happening anytime soon.  It appears that Armstrong is being realistic when it comes to signing his restricted free agents.

We haven’t really moved ahead with anyone yet.  We’ll probably do that, I’d say, 10 days before the draft (June 28) to two weeks before the draft. We’ll talk to guys if they want to get something done sooner, we’re prepared, but history shows that these guys usually don’t sign until after the free-agency period starts.

For Armstrong, the key to re-signing his key free agents seems to be paying them a fair price.  While many could argue about what each player is worth to the Blues, Arsmtrong is more concerned with paying them the correct amount in fear of overpaying a player.

I keep going back to the fact that we want to pay the guys fairly.  So it’s not like…I’ll use the ceiling of $10.  It’s not like we’re offering $1 and they’re going to get $9. We might be offering $6 and they’re going to get $7. Nothing in an offer sheet is going to be that much crazier than we’re willing to spend anyway.

In addition to Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk, Armstrong is also focused on locking up Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart.

Apr 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Chris Stewart (25) attempts to screen Chicago Blackhawks goalie Carter Hutton (33) during the second period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Stewart had a great start to his career in St. Louis after being picked up at the trade deadline in 2011, but his production dropper dramatically in 2011-12.  As a result, Armstrong gave Stewart a one year prove it deal last offseason.

Stewart stepped up the challenge in 2013 producing 18 goals and 36 points to lead all Blues.

Patrik Berglund also seemed to show improvement as he managed to score 17 goals of his own.  Looking sluggish at times, the real issue with Berglund became his inability to find chemistry with linemates.

Armstrong is looking at Stewart in Berglund in a very similar way.

The top of the mountain is very appealing, but we’ve got to get the valley closer to the peak.  You hope that the good games are exceptional, but the bad games are good. That’s what I talked to Patrik Berglund about too. I see him and ‘Stewy’ a lot alike.

Even with the big work ahead, Armstrong is not going to overlook the play of Pietrangelo this season.

He had a good year, but not as good a year as his second year.  So we have to figure out where all that fits into the market moving forward. As I look at our group, he has the best opportunity to be an elite (player) of anyone on our team right now. But opportunity has to cross-sect with the final result.

May 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli (73) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) go for the puck in the first period of game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Shattenkirk may not have the same potential as Pietrangelo, but he is also a key piece of the Blues team.  Armstrong had some insight on Shatty as well.

He’s been an interesting three-year study because his numbers have almost stayed flat across the board.  I look at that as a positive, that he’s defining himself relatively quickly.

So while Blues fans wait to hear news of the next signing, Armstrong seems to be weighing his options and doing his homework.

Should the Blues have the ability to lock these guys up, Armstrong seems willing to go after a piece or two in free agency that could immediately improve the team.

From a team standpoint, it’s better to get it done earlier because then you know entering free agency, if you have a surplus of money, you can get into the market.  But I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now. I understand how the process works. There’s still a long time and if both sides feel there’s a deal to be made, it can be done in two or three phone calls.  My philosophies haven’t changed. I don’t want to underpay anybody. I just don’t want to overpay anybody.

Let’s hope the Blues find a way to lock up all of our key players and manage to make this a strong team heading into the 2013-14 season.  What is your take on who Armstrong will sign first?  Let us know in the comments below.

LET’S GO BLUES!

-Alex Hodschayan

 

Tags: Alex Pietrangelo Chris Stewart Doug Armstrong Free Agency Kevin Shattenkirk Patrik Berglund St. Louis Blues

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