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As he moves on to Vegas, Petro salutes St. Louis and its fans

As he moves on to Vegas, Petro salutes St. Louis and its fans

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St. Louis Blues V Washington Capitals

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (27) skates around with the Stanley Cup before the start of the St. Louis Blues season opener against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Make no mistake, Alex Pietrangelo is excited about his new challenge with his new team — the Vegas Golden Knights.

But leaving St. Louis, the only “hometown” he’s known as an adult, won’t be easy.

“It’s tough on us,” Pietrangelo told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s an amazing city. The people here are amazing. There’s a reason why up until this point, we’ve lived here all year-round because the people here are amazing.

“The fans, they’ve been amazing. Look at the parade, and everything that we did. It’s a special place to play. And for us, more importantly it’s a special place to live. Raise our kids here. They go to school here right now. These are the things that are important to us.

“So it was a difficult decision for us, one that we certainly didn’t take lightly. Which is why there was no decision made on Friday or Saturday or Sunday. We had to give this a lot of thought. And that’s a credit to the city and a credit to the people.”

Who knows what will happen down the line, but for now Pietrangelo, wife Jayne, and their four children plan to keep their house and return to St. Louis in the offseasons.

“I’m gonna be here, probably come back in the summers and skate with these guys (his now former Blues teammates). And I’ll be around the city. I’m friends with them. They understand.”

Earlier, on a Zoom call arranged by the Golden Knights, Pietrangelo said he has talked to many Blues players since his decision to sign with Vegas. He called them friends for life, and plans to play some golf with them before the weather turns in St. Louis.

But looking ahead, Pietrangelo said: “We’re going somewhere new and welcoming a new challenge.”

Pietrangelo signed a seven-year, $61.6 million free-agent contract Sunday with the Golden Knights, ending his 12-year tenure as a member of the Blues organization. Besides the money, Pietrangelo got a couple of other things that were sticking points in his negotiations with the Blues:

• A full “no-movement” clause with Vegas.

• Signing bonus money. All kinds of signing bonus money. As reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, Pietrangelo gets $35 million in signing bonus, or roughly 57 percent of the overall contract.

In the NHL, signing bonus money can be paid out in a lump sum or in installments. More importantly, signing bonus money cannot be bought out, an important consideration as a veteran player gets to the end of a long contract.

Besides the financial considerations, Pietrangelo said the fact that Vegas was committed to winning the Cup played a role in his decision. As did the fact that Vegas plays a style similar to the Blues, with coach Peter DeBoer’s system tailored for defensemen that like to get up ice and contribute on offense.

“They play the way that I think the game should be played,” Pietrangelo said. “You want to go somewhere where you feel comfortable and that you can help.”

Before making his decision, Pietrangelo said he got a scouting report on Vegas from former Blues teammate, and now former Golden Knight Paul Stastny.

“We felt like he said all the right things,” Pietrangelo said. “He spoke extremely highly of the organization and the way the players are treated, the way the families are treated, and more importantly the way the wives are treated. It certainly helped us make a decision knowing that everyone’s taken care of.”

Pietrangelo said there was interest from several other teams at the start of free agency, but Las Vegas represented his only free-agent visit.

“Obviously, the goal all along was always to get something done in St. Louis but as Friday came and Vegas called we thought we’d entertain the idea,” he said.

A report Tuesday morning out of St. Louis said Pietrangelo wanted a new challenge, and that the idea of playing and living somewhere else was intriguing to him. Later, on the Zoom call with reporters — most of whom were from the Las Vegas area — Pietrangelo indicated that the report was an exaggeration, at least to a degree.

“That was taken out of context to be honest with you,” Pietrangelo said. “The goal was always to get something done with St. Louis. I don’t think my mind actually flipped to that point until we tried and tried and tried with St. Louis and it didn’t look like something was gonna get done.”

When asked about the frustration of not being able to get a deal done with the Blues, Pietrangelo replied:

“I don’t know if frustration’s the right word. Look, Army (general manager Doug Armstrong) is going to say the same thing. We tried and we tried and we tried. And sometimes things just don’t work out. And so I wouldn’t necessarily say frustration.

“I think both sides are disappointed. But I talked to teams and flew out to Vegas, so yeah you get excited about that opportunity and you get excited about trying to fit into a new group and the new challenge of fitting into a new system, new coaches and all that.

“So I’m excited for that. Jayne and I are getting completely outside of our comfort zone with all we have in our life right now. So I think it’s a challenge we’re going to kind of welcome with open arms.”

As for the Friday signing of Boston’s Torey Krug, in effect his replacement in St. Louis, Pietrangelo said: “I was a little surprised. ... Army saw an opportunity to get an elite player and he did that.

“I never really counted the Blues out until I put pen on paper — what was it? — yesterday? So I went into this thing with an open mind, not really knowing what to expect. And I think this year was a little bit different obviously because of what’s happened with the cap and the pandemic.”

So here he is: The Blues’ captain is now a Vegas Golden Knight.

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