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Breaking down Alex Pietrangelo’s interview with The Athletic

Barely a few hours after rumours came out of his intentions to hit the open market, Alex Pietrangelo sat down with Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic and revealed a lot of details on what’s going on behind the scenes. If you have a subscription, I highly recommend you read that article first before proceeding with this one.

Pietrangelo confirmed last night’s report from Darren Dreger of TSN that he will indeed test free agency on October 9th due to not reaching an agreement that was best for both sides. The Blues’ recent asking price was purportedly around $7.7 million a season which he turned down. He also said that although he was willing to accept a contract below market value, he doesn’t want to continue negotiations with St. Louis because the team hasn’t figured out the structure of the deal (which includes the prospect of adding a NMC or signing bonuses to the contract).

Here’s what he had to say on the matter:

“We’re a little disappointed that we’re in this situation. We weren’t able to hammer out the details what we wanted in a deal. There was some work that we tried to get done that we couldn’t get done, so both sides agreed that maybe it’s in the best interest. We’re two weeks away. Not saying anything can’t change, but as of right now, that’s kind of our plan, and we’ll see where things go.”

This confirms the report from Friday afternoon which suggested Pietrangelo is committed to meet with other teams, including the Leafs. Since there is mutual interest between the two parties, I have to think that Kyle Dubas and company are getting their pitch prepared for a potential meeting.

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Pietrangelo’s camp reportedly approached management shortly after the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019 to discuss a new contract. Instead of beginning talks, Blues G.M. Doug Armstrong instead wanted to wait on the CBA extension and what the salary cap for the 2020-21 season was going to be. He did, however, trade for and signed Justin Faulk to a $45 million deal, along with locking down Brayden Schenn to a $52 million extension.

Both transactions allegedly “irked” the Blues’ captain since the contracts shrunk their cap space to around $5 million. That, in combination with a flat salary cap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in a stalemate between the two sides which has no signs of ending. Though he hasn’t ruled out staying with the Blues, Pietrangelo doesn’t know the likelihood of him remaining in St. Louis should he reach October 9th without a new contract.

All of this information has me believe that this is a player looking to get paid on what will likely be his last chance at a big payday. Armstrong tried to hardball the 31-year-old defender and it appears to have backfired spectacularly. Should things continue to play out in this manner, it will improve Toronto’s chances of being able to acquire his services. If the Leafs do want to take a run at Pietrangelo, that means shipping off players like Andreas Johnsson and Alexander Kerfoot will need to happen in order to fit his salary demands.

One interesting tidbit that Pietrangelo revealed is that the notion of him staying in St. Louis because his wife is from the area was overblown:

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“We sat down and did our homework on our own and have gone through scenarios, teams that we think can maybe accommodate us and teams that we think are competitive and teams that we think would be willing to raise a family in. It’s not a very fun thing to do when your heart is somewhere, but unfortunately, it’s just the situation we’re in.”

Leafs fans will unequivocally be relieved by this information because it is proof that Pietrangelo is more than willing to take his talents elsewhere as long as it’s good for both him and his family. Given that he is from the area, Toronto has an edge in terms of familiarity for the King City native. There is also reported importance for him to join a contending team, so the Leafs will have to fend off the likes of the Golden Knights and Panthers to woo Pietrangelo.

So what can we take away from this interview? As mentioned earlier, Pietrangelo seems to be looking for an increase in salary on his next deal and was annoyed by how the Blues have handled the negotiations to this point. He hopes to remain in St. Louis but a stalemate has resulted in him going forward with testing the open market.

The details revealed in this conversation are no doubt going to get Leafs fans ecstatic, especially the morsel on him open to moving his family out of Missouri if another team comes calling. Pietrangelo signing with his hometown team is by no means a lock but the chances of it occurring are more probable now than where they were 48 hours ago.

While things can certainly change, it appears likely that Pietrangelo will be leaving the only organization he has ever known. These next few weeks are surely going to be quite the eventful one for multiple fanbases no matter how it plays out.


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