The St. Louis Blues failed to accomplish what the Toronto Maple Leafs did in the final hours before the opening of training camp Wednesday: lock up their most valuable restricted free agent.
Alex Pietrangelo, arguably the Blues’ best defenceman, will miss the start of training camp as Tuesday’s negotiations with the club failed to result in a new contract.
“Talks between the Blues and Alex’s camp have broken off for now, and Alex will not be reporting for our camp today,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong announced Wednesday morning.
Armstrong later addressed the media at the Blues’ practice facility and will not comment on the matter afterward until an agreement is reached.
Armstrong: "Last night we gave it a last ditch kick at the can…it didn't hold. So from this point forward, he's not in camp." #stlblues
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) September 11, 2013
“Alex is going to be a Blue, whether it’s now or when in the future… he will be a Blue,” Armstrong told local reporters. “I want to crystalize that for our fans and 29 other poachers out there. He’s going to be a Blue.”
Having finished out a three-year entry-level deal that carried a cap hit of less than $3.2 million, Pietrangelo is an RFA for the first time in his career.
Though less of a household name, Pietrangelo could be targeting a contract in the ballpark of the one landed by blue-liner Drew Doughty, another 23-year-old Team Canada hopeful who was given an eight-year, $56-million deal by the Los Angeles Kings after his entry-level deal expired.
“That’d be nice. Obviously, he’s a great player,” Pietrangelo said this summer.
The King City, Ont., native is keeping his cards close to his vest but has been reported to be seeking $7 million per year, while the Blues would like to settle on $6 million or less. It’s a significant gap for a cash-conscious club nearing the cap ceiling. The Blues have a total of $7.6 million to play with as camp opens.
“You try to keep it as internal as you can because you don’t know what direction it’s going, but I enjoy talking to (my teammates) about it,” Pietrangelo said at the time. “They’re all interested, which means they want me back and they all care.”