5 realistic free-agent landing spots for Pietrangelo
Following Friday's report that the St. Louis Blues broke off contract talks with Alex Pietrangelo and advised their captain to pursue free agency, we look at five sensible landing spots for the star defenseman.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Can a star player hailing from the Greater Toronto Area hit free agency and not be linked to the Maple Leafs? We can hear the groans from non-Leafs fans, but this list wouldn't feel complete without at least mentioning a potential Leafs pursuit of the native of King City, Ontario.
With just over $6 million in cap space, the Leafs have the least amount of flexibility of any team to crack this list. However, they may also be more desperate for an impact right-handed defenseman than any club in the league. The addition of a bona fide No. 1 blue-liner like Pietrangelo would turn Toronto's defense from a weakness to a strength.
|Morgan Rielly||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Jake Muzzin||Justin Holl|
|Travis Dermott||Mikko Lehtonen|
In order to afford Pietrangelo, who will likely command at least $8 million per season, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will have to make changes throughout the lineup. He wouldn't necessarily need to move someone as important as William Nylander, but fellow forwards Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million) and Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million) would have to be traded and replaced with players making less than $1 million. He'd also have to deal goaltender Frederik Andersen ($5 million) and pursue a cheaper option.
It would really thin out Toronto's bottom-six forward group and create some uncertainty between the pipes, but Pietrangelo could be accommodated if the Leafs are that desperate. It also remains to be seen whether Dubas would want to make a significant long-term commitment to a 30-year-old after signing John Tavares two years ago.
A right-handed defenseman isn't an area of need for the Bruins, who have Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Connor Clifton in the fold. However, the team's Stanley Cup window is closing quickly, and Pietrangelo would better position Boston to contend with the Tampa Bay Lightning and make another deep playoff run.
Even after re-signing RFAs Jake DeBrusk and Matt Grzelcyk, the Bruins will likely have nearly $9 million to offer. Remember, Torey Krug is a UFA and Zdeno Chara could retire, so there's some money to go around on Boston's blue line. If GM Don Sweeney were to sign Pietrangelo, he could easily trade Carlo or Clifton for a left-handed defenseman or some help up front to relieve the logjam on the right side.
|Matt Grzelcyk||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Jeremy Lauzon||Charlie McAvoy|
Taylor Hall would seem to be a more logical fit for the Bruins, but don't rule out the possibility of the Bruins making a splash for Pietrangelo.
The Avalanche are consistently linked to big-name free agents thanks to their cap flexibility and legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations. Colorado has over $22 million in projected cap space, albeit with RFAs Valeri Nichushkin, Tyson Jost, Andre Burakovsky, Nikita Zadorov, and Ryan Graves all in need of new contracts.
General Manager Joe Sakic could easily trade Ian Cole, who's entering the last year of his deal, and Erik Johnson, who can submit a list of 19 teams he'll accept a trade to. Moving both blue-liners would allow Sakic to not only afford Pietrangelo but put the GM in a position to comfortably re-sign Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog next offseason.
Adding Pietrangelo would give Colorado one of the best blue lines in the league even before the arrival of 2019 No. 4 pick Bowen Byram.
|Samuel Girard||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Ryan Graves||Cale Makar|
|Nikita Zadorov||Conor Timmins|
Issues would arise at the 2021 expansion draft, where the Avs would risk losing Graves if they opt to use the 7-3-1 format. But those same risks exist if they keep Johnson in the fold, who has expansion protection with a no-movement clause.
Calgary isn't typically the most desirable destination for premier free agents, and the club often has to overpay on the open market. However, GM Brad Treliving is in a great position to make a run at Pietrangelo. His team is in need of some sort of shake-up, and with five pending UFA D-men, there are openings on the blue line and significant cap space to burn.
The Flames have nearly $17 million in projected cap space, and RFAs Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski, and Oliver Kylington won't break the bank. The team could allow UFAs T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Erik Gustafsson, Derek Forbort, and Michael Stone to walk. Adding Pietrangelo is a viable option thanks to the organization's youthful depth on D.
|Mark Giordano||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Noah Hanifin||Rasmus Andersson|
|Juuso Valimaki||Oliver Kylington|
Assuming Giordano still has another year or two left of quality play, this would be one of the best blue lines in the league.
The Oilers have $10.5 million in projected cap space this offseason. The contracts of RFAs Ethan Bear and Andreas Athanasiou will eat into that, and GM Ken Holland has to sign a backup goalie, too. This means a contract - or maybe two - would need to be moved.
Adam Larsson would make sense as the odd man out. He's entering the final year of his deal that carries a $4.16-million cap hit, and there would be no shortage of suitors. Pietrangelo would then take his spot in the lineup.
|Oscar Klefbom||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Darnell Nurse||Ethan Bear|
|Caleb Jones||Kris Russell|
Signing Pietrangelo would likely require Edmonton to protect four defensemen - eight total players - at the expansion draft instead of protecting seven forwards and three rearguards. However, the Oilers are pretty top-heavy up front, so they're one of the few teams that could manage it.
Having a horse like Pietrangelo to complement Edmonton's star forwards would vastly increase the team's Stanley Cup hopes.
(Salary source: CapFriendly)