ST. LOUIS — If they could have their way, this would have been over by now.
The ink would be dry. Handshakes would have been made. Alex Pietrangelo would be back.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.
“That’s the business side, where those guys have to figure that out,” Blues captain David Backes said Thursday. “The sooner they can figure that out, and he is back in that room, it makes us a better team.”
When hockey prognosticators tabbed the St. Louis Blues as one of the best defensive teams in the NHL headed into the 2013-14 season, they probably figured Alex Pietrangelo would be wearing The Note. Blues fans, players and management certainly did. But training camp is here and the sixth-year defenseman has not agreed to a new deal, instead holding out while he waits on an extension.
“Talks between the Blues and Alex’s camp have broken off for now, and Alex will not be reporting for training camp today,” Blues general manger Doug Armstrong said Wednesday, the day players reported for physicals.
The difference between the two parties is believed to be $1 million annually. Pietrangelo, 23, is reportedly seeking an extension that would bring him $7 million per year; the Blues are believed to have drawn the line at $6 million.
“That’s a situation no one likes to be in, a conversation no one likes to have,” Backes said. “But we’ve got a lot of capable bodies on the ice, guys that are willing to fill in and step up if he is absent for an extended period of time.”
Already, the focus has started to turn. Pietrangelo’s return is becoming more “if” and less “when.” It has been suggested that he is thought of as an injured player whose return date is unknown.
Meanwhile others, especially defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, are realizing there is opportunity in the absence.
“It’s a big void to fill,” said -Shattenkirk, who assumed the No. 1 defensive pairing with Jay Bouwmeester on Thursday. “It’s an opportunity for me to step into that role that he plays, try to shine and help the team out.”
So it goes in the hockey business.
There’s no doubt Pietrangelo’s teammates want him back. But they can’t afford to wait around.
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