(HockeyStL) -- Before returning to his first practice of training camp, Alex Pietrangelo entered the media room at the St. Louis Outlet Mall with a big grin on his face on Saturday.
“I think I’ve been all smiles since yesterday when things finally got announced and I was on the plane on the way down here,” Pietrangelo said. “To be at the rink and see everybody in the organization from coaches to management to players, it’s extremely exciting.”
General manager Doug Armstrong was quick to add jokingly, “if you want to see a smile, come back October 15 for his first payday.”
That paycheck will be the first of a 7-year, $45.5 million deal agreed to on Friday and then signed three hours before his first practice on Saturday.
The agreement ended a two-day holdout for the 23-year-old defenseman as Armstrong and Pietrangelo’s agent, Don Meehan, continued negotiations throughout the start of camp. On Wednesday, the club announced Pietrangelo would not attend camp on time.
“There’s always a part of a player that’s in a team sport that wants to be there with his teammates,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s certainly not an easy thing to go through watching them start out without me. At the same time, we were trying to focus on what we had to do.”
As Blues camp started in St. Louis, Pietrangelo skated in Toronto with American Hockey League and Europe-bound players before their camps began as negotiations continued.
Armstrong called it an “exciting time for a manager” when Pietrangelo was presented with the latest offer on Friday. Instead of a quick answer, Armstrong and the Blues had to wait for a response from their top defenseman.
“Is it taking so long because he’s not happy,” Armstrong recalled. “Or is it taking so long because he’s working extra?”
It was more of the latter as Pietrangelo agreed to end his holdout and sign the latest offer.
“I was behind getting it done the whole time,” Pietrangelo said. “I wanted to be here and be a Blue. That was my ultimate goal. I had my representatives bring me to the right direction. They’re going to give me their ideas and thoughts, but ultimately it comes down to what I want.”
The new contract brings a big pay increase from the $787,500 salary paid to him last season. Pietrangelo is expected to make $5 million this season, $5.5 million in 2014-15, $6.5 million in 2015-16, $7 million in each 2016-17, ’17-18, and ’18-19, and $7.5 million in the final year of his contract.
With higher pay means higher expectations from fans, but Armstrong said the team doesn’t want Pietrangelo to change.
“The biggest mistake an athlete can make is to change who they are based on economic changes,” Armstrong said. “Making this commitment to Alex was we just want Alex to be Alex. There’s certainly no pressure from the coaching staff or the management to do anything more than he’s done up to date...”
Armstrong then quipped, “...except get better.”
The signing of Pietrangelo is the latest in a flurry of moves to retain the club’s defense.
The Blues gave Jay Bouwmeester, who was acquired in a trade with Calgary last season, a five-year extension and locked Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year extension this summer. Barret Jackman and Jordan Leopold can become unrestricted free agents after the 2014-15 season and Roman Polak won’t hit the market until after the 2015-16 season.
“The economics may say that it’s a stretch and that we’re pulling and pushing ownership to do things,” Armstrong said. “The trade of Jay Bouwmeester was a really big indicator that championship hockey is what this ownership group wants then the signing of Jay Bouwmeester to an extension says that. The commitment to Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer says that.
“As far as our defense, self-serving for sure, I think we have the best defense in the NHL.”
And the moves didn’t go unnoticed by Pietrangelo.
“I see that commitment from Tom (Stillman) and the ownership group,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s very appealing to a player who is looking to commit somewhere longterm. It’s exciting to see that from the ownership.”
Scott Bierman covers the Blues, Cardinals, and Rams for KMOV.com and its associated mobile applications (HockeyStL, BaseballStL, and FootballStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman.