The St. Louis Blues have decisions to make regarding their captain whenever the offseason rolls around. However, his options might be thinner than expected.
When the St. Louis Blues played their final regular season game of 2019-20, few could have imagined the impact the entire situation would have. A chunk of the season would be lost, teams would lose vast amounts of money and the entire league calendar has been thrown off.
As part of that, or as a result rather, the league’s financial outlook is up in the air. There were initially guesses that the NHL might actually cut their salary cap, which would have sent a lot of teams into a tailspin given they already spent what might have been the new cap without adding anyone.
Now, the main thought is that the league’s cap will essentially be frozen at $81.5 million for the foreseaable future. That is not the best of situations, but certainly not the worst.
It gives teams like the Blues options, at the very least. They’ve already spent up to the cap and only have one major free agent left.
We all know that free agent to be is Alex Pietrangelo. What we don’t know is how his situation will play out.
While none of your average fans are going to feel too sorry for millionaires, you do have to feel a little bad for the situation the team’s captain finds himself in. Instead of being able to enjoy what might be his final and most lucrative free agency period, he might be in a pickle.
As was the case even before the pandemic, much of Pietrangelo’s situation will be dictated by what he wants. Does he want a gigantic payday, a raise but with a chance to still win or would he take a discount to stay with this young group in St. Louis?
What has changed because of the pandemic is the amount of options on the table for Petro. Suddenly a list that might have been 25 teams deep will have dwindled because of the salary cap situation.
Most teams, including the Blues, were anticipating the cap to rise to at least $84 million. Some projections were higher.
That would have given valuable space to the Blues and other cash-strapped teams throughout the league. It was going to give teams more of an ability to make a run at Pietrangelo too – teams like Toronto.
With the cap staying where it is, I simply don’t know how the Maple Leafs make it work. With only 16 players under contract for 2020-21, the Maple Leafs are projected to have a little over $7 million in cap space.
If Pietrangelo wants $8 million or higher, suddenly the Maple Leafs have no money to spend and 15 spots still to fill. I know there are bookkeeping ways to make things fit, as evidenced by Toronto actually spending $95 million this past season, but it just doesn’t seem as feasible.
There are a decent number of teams in the same boat. They either won’t have enough to fill a team or won’t have enough players leaving to make the room.
Of course, there are teams with money. New Jersey and Ottawa have the cap space right this second to sign Pietrangelo if all he wants is money. However, Ottawa is a mess and New Jersey’s owner has said they don’t need a flashy signing.
Nashville might be able to find the space. However, Roman Josi‘s hit will bump up by almost $5 million next season and Ryan Ellis is already on a semi-hefty contract. Will the Predators want that much money on the blue line?
Minnesota could have the funds. However, the Wild have been trending in the wrong direction and Pietrangelo would only help so much.
The New York Rangers could be an intriguing option. They already had over $3 million in space in 2019-20 and were making a furious charge at the playoffs even before everything shut down.
Pietrangelo could make a huge impact in the Big Apple. The question would be whether Jacob Trouba would be OK with not being the top defenseman and also whether Pietrangelo’s quieter demeanor would mesh well with the New York media.
Winnipeg and Montreal might be options as well, if Pietrangelo is wanting to return to his home country. However, the Canadiens already have plenty of aging defenders so another might not seem great and Winnipeg has five defensive spots to fill, even if they do have the money.
So, it is not as though Pietrangelo will be devoid of options. It will depend on what he wants.
If he wants to keep winning, the options are fewer. Staying with the Blues, even at somewhat of a discount, also becomes hard since the Blues could have to unload as many as three players to afford Pietrangelo.
If he only wants the money, his options become more plentiful. However, at this stage of his career, I’m not sure he only wants money. Now that he’s won, it’s hard to go back to struggling to make the playoffs, even if you are being well compensated.
Time will tell. The cap situation is going to make for interesting offseasons for a lot of players, including Pietrangelo.