Alex Pietrangelo is Vegas bound, and the Golden Knights are shuffling the deck to fit him in.
Pietrangelo signed a $61.6 million, seven-year deal with Vegas on Monday that carries an $8.8 million annual salary cap hit through 2027. It’s the fifth-biggest cap hit for a defenceman in the NHL.
Vegas sheds salary by trading Schmidt
Adding the top free agent available gives Vegas another big-money talent, but the team needed to make another move to shed salary just to add him. Before registering Pietrangelo’s contract, the Golden Knights traded defenceman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2022 third-round pick, clearing his $5.95 million cap hit off the books.
After already sending centre Paul Stastny to Winnipeg, the team likely needs to make another move, such as trading goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, to be cap compliant when next season starts.
But Pietrangelo, who finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting and is one of the best right-shooting defencemen in the league, makes Vegas better.
The 30-year-old leaves the St. Louis Blues after serving as captain of their 2019 Stanley Cup championship team. Pietrangelo is coming off scoring a career-high 16 goals despite the season being cut short at 70 games.
Pietrangelo has 109 goals and 341 assists for 450 points in 758 regular-season NHL games. He had a post-season-best 16 assists and averaged almost 26 minutes of ice time during the Blues’ Cup run.
“He has been a stalwart player for us, for this team for a number of years,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Friday night. “A huge part of a championship-calibre team. He’s going to go down so far as one of the best Blues ever.”
St. Louis moved on from Pietrangelo, a homegrown prospect who was the No. 4 pick in the 2008 draft, before he did. The Blues signed former Boston Bruins defenceman Torey Krug to a $45.5 million, seven-year contract Friday, essentially ruling them out of keeping Pietrangelo after more than a year’s worth of negotiations couldn’t amount to an agreement.
“We couldn’t find something that made everyone comfortable,” Armstrong said. “It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time this happens in the NHL. You just wish it didn’t happen because of the respect and the desire we had to keep Alex here.”
Pietrangelo becomes the last of the top-tier free agents to find a landing spot, after Taylor Hall signed an $8 million, one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Monday. Krug was the other, and winger Mike Hoffman is the top player left on the market after a 29-goal, 59-point season with the Florida Panthers.
Hall took the opposite approach of Pietrangelo and Krug with the cap staying flat amid pandemic-ravaged revenues.
“We knew it was going to be a unique marketplace coming into free agency,” Hall said Tuesday. “Once free agency started, I think we were made aware pretty quickly at how much things had changed and how COVID had affected a lot of different things. So, it kind of changed our decision-making from there.”
Pietrangelo had wanted to stay with St. Louis, but the signing of Krug altered his decision-making. The Toronto area native flew to Las Vegas on Saturday to meet with the Golden Knights, a visit that paved the way for this contract.