The St. Louis Blues Recipe For Sustained Success Started In Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 24: Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for a puck at PPG Paints Arena on January 24, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 24: Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for a puck at PPG Paints Arena on January 24, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Blues President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Doug Armstrong has said many times that the Blues are a team built upon “death by a thousand cuts”.

Doug Armstrong used the Boston Bruins as an example of this type of team build. That’s a fair assessment and probably mentioned them because they were fresh on his mind and a team the St. Louis Blues just defeated in the Stanley Cup Finals last year.

The truth is, as mentioned in an article by The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek, this sort of recipe was being executed last decade. Eric mentions that three teams have won multiple championships in the closing decade.

Those three are LA, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. LA and Chicago are obviously on the downward trend and heading to rebuild while the Pens are holding onto a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference despite having some injuries to some very key players.

Why is it that Pittsburgh is still competitive? In the article, Eric talks to the Pen’s Kris Letang and Letang is quoted:

"“I mean, there’s a lot of things,” Letang said. “You said it: Obviously, Sid sets the example. But one thing people don’t realize is, he took a lot less money than he could have taken because he wants to play with good players. Same thing with Malkin. So, these guys thought more about the long run than the short run. Obviously, they’re making a lot of money, but they could have been making a lot more money than they decided to – and that allowed players that want to sign here to stay here.“I think that’s how you maintain a good core – with guys that want to play here.”"

If you can click the link to the article and read it. It’s a great read from Eric. Better yet here it is again in case you’re on your cell phone and don’t want to scroll up to find it again.

Back to my piece now. So we all know Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Two superstar players! They’d make anyone competitive, but as the Edmonton Oilers have repeatedly pointed out it takes more than just two superstars to make a team consistently competitive year in and year out.

What does this have to do with the St. Louis Blues team? Well, Doug Armstrong is approaching a time where one of his stars is up for a new contract. Many in the NHL have said that Alex Pietrangelo will cost someone around 9 million a season.

Alex Pietrangelo has been playing the best hockey of his career since the playoffs last season started up through now and what he has done prior to that has been All-Star worthy multiple times.

So in that light, Pietrangelo deserves to be paid and has earned it. The money he made over the course of this contract has not been peanuts. He’s made an AAV of $6.5 million over the course of his current contract.

Many fans in St. Louis believe we won’t get him resigned unless he takes a hometown discount. Some believe he signs because his wife is from here and those family ties will keep him here.

Here’s what I think. I think we have all witnessed that Alex Pietrangelo is a winner. He’s dedicated to winning and has been a terrific St. Louis Blue. He wants to win more. Another thing I believe is he knows he can’t win alone. That it takes a strong team to win the whole enchilada!

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are winners. They want to win more. They know it takes a team to win the whole enchilada. So they did what they had to do to build a team.

Now let’s be fair here. Malkin makes an AAV of $9.5 million so I wouldn’t necessarily consider him as a big sacrifice of salary for the team, and Crosby makes $8.3 million which was a lot of money in the NHL when he signed in 2012 to a 12 yr contract.

So Letang believes that it’s because Crosby and Malkin not only lead the way in the locker room but also in contracts leaving some on the table for the team. This is arguable at best as both make a lot of money still.

One thing that can be said is that it may have started there but the Boston Bruins have taken it a step further with the likes of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and the pro of pros Patrice Bergeron. All of which make less than $7 million a season.

Boston is second in the entire league just behind Washington and ahead of the Blues. Washington is built like the Blues and Bruins where they really only have Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson making $8 million or more.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are the favorite alternate destination for Alex Pietrangelo, but looking at their roster and their contracts I don’t see how they make that work and if Chicago and LA have taught us anything it’s that big contracts to multiple players on the same team don’t work out.

Next. St. Louis Blues: Current All Star Format Won’t Reward St. Louis. dark

The Blues and Pietrangelo each have leverage on their sides. Pietrangelo having the best play of his career currently and the Blues are a winning franchise with a window that is wide open for a repeat. Petro wants to win and can now say he is a winner. What that is worth now and the most important question of the contract for how long is the question.

Crosby carries an $8.7 million dollar cap hit. This season he is making $9 million cash, $9.6 next season and $9 million the following. After that is where he “left money on the table” He will be making $3 million cash.  That doesn’t free up cap space, but it does free up cash for ownership to use in order to get another player and potentially keep talent around the two stars.

(All salary numbers courtesy of