It seemed almost certain that Alex Pietrangelo would be traded last December when the St. Louis Blues were in the NHL's basement. As we know now, St. Louis opted against a rebuild and, after a turnaround for the ages, Pietrangelo became the first player in franchise history to hoist the Stanley Cup. Since then, most thought he was going to remain a Blue for life.
The Blues sent defenseman Joel Edmundson, former first-rounder Dominik Bokk, and a seventh-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Faulk and a fifth-rounder. The Blues then signed Faulk, who was set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer, to a seven-year extension carrying a $6.5-million cap hit.
Meanwhile, Pietrangelo is entering the final year of his deal, which similarly carries a $6.5-million cap hit. The Blues also have Colton Parayko signed for three more years at $5.5 million per season. To further complicate matters, all three are right-handed.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong actually didn't give up too much for a top-four defenseman like Faulk, but the fit remains curious. Here's how St. Louis' defense projects for this season:
|Vince Dunn||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Jay Bouwmeester||Colton Parayko|
|Carl Gunnarsson||Justin Faulk|
For one season, this arrangement is fine; long term, however, it probably isn't. Faulk wasn't brought in to be a third-pairing defenseman for the next eight years.
If Pietrangelo re-signs with the Blues, it would likely require a cap hit of at least $8 million, and that's a conservative estimate.
In this case, the Blues would be allotting over $20 million to the right side of their blue line, leaving limited cash for the left. This is not ideal, especially considering Vince Dunn's entry-level contract expires after the upcoming campaign and versatile forward Brayden Schenn is in the last year of his deal.
It's possible Pietrangelo, Parayko, or Faulk could play on their weak side, but that would fail to maximize their true value as right-handed defensemen, who are a prized commodity in today's game.
Furthermore, consider this: head coach Craig Berube opted to scratch right-handed defenseman Robert Bortuzzo in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final so workhorses Pietrangelo and Parayko could essentially play half the game each, with four left-handers rotating in beside the two.
If Pietrangelo is re-signed, it could open the door for a Parayko trade. If he isn't re-signed, would the Blues consider trading their leader before the deadline? Dealing the captain of the defending Stanley Cup champions would be unheard-of, but it'd be better than letting him walk in free agency for nothing.
It's unclear what the future holds for St. Louis' blue line, but it's possible Armstrong has another move up his sleeve.