A huge domino has fallen as Alex Pietrangelo – who was considered to be not only the best defenseman available in free agency but possibly the best player in general – has signed with the Vegas Golden Knights. After days of speculation connecting the defender to the Golden Knights, a deal finally came to fruition Monday evening.
A veteran of 850 games in the NHL (regular season and playoffs – all with the St. Louis Blues) Pietrangelo is a top-pairing defenseman who was drafted fourth overall by the Blues back in the 2008 Entry Draft. He had served as the Blues’ captain since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. As captain, he led the Blues to the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup championship in 2019.
With 52 points in 70 games during the 2019-20 season, Pietrangelo recorded the best points-per-game rate of his career. The 30-year-old has averaged over 24 minutes of ice time since the 2011-12 season, cementing the fact that Golden Knights is getting a real minute-muncher here. He has finished fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, including this past season, suggesting that his ice-time is certainly warranted.
With 450 points through 758 regular season games, Pietrangelo not only excels in the defensive-end, but he’s more than capable of creating opportunities in the offensive zone as well. He’s an all-situations defender that should still be able to push the puck in the right direction for the foreseeable future.
Fit With the Golden Knights
Pietrangelo is probably the best defender to ever wear a Golden Knights sweater – though an argument could be made that Shea Theodore is on his way there. He solidifies the Golden Knights on the right side of the blue line and gives them a true minute-muncher on the back end. There’s no doubt that this move makes an already formidable roster even better.
The move also adds valuable championship experience to the roster. As the captain of a Stanley Cup-winning team, Pietrangelo will provide a voice in the locker room for a team that has designs on a championship of their own. He might even wear a letter on his new sweater right from the get-go.
However, the move pushes the Golden Knights over the salary cap ($81.5 million) in a big way. To make room for Pietrangelo’s deal, the Golden Knights dealt fellow defender Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in 2022.
Though the move subtracts another player from the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, the upgrade on the blue line is undeniable.
Writing On the Wall
After the Blues signed Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins to a seven-year contract on the first day of free agency, Pietrangelo was quoted as being caught off guard by the news.
Although the Blues was never shut the door on bringing back Pietrangelo, the acquisition of Krug made it virtually impossible for them to retain their captain. While both parties are probably a little upset over the divorce, it seemed like a foregone conclusion as the season went on and Pietrangelo never signed an extension.
Given both teams’ statuses in the Western Conference, there’s a very real chance that the Blues and Golden Knights could meet up in the playoffs next season. Should that happen, tonight’s news will have provided a storyline that will draw the focus of many pundits and fans throughout the NHL.