Earlier this offseason, following the departure of David Backes, the Blues indicated they would use the bulk of the summer to select a new captain.
Well with the offseason winding down quickly — training camp opens Sept. 24, less than a month from now — they have identified Backes’ successor.
The Post-Dispatch has learned that the Blues will name defenseman Alex Pietrangelo as the club’s 21st captain on Thursday. Neither Blues general manager Doug Armstrong nor Pietrangelo would comment on the appointment until a news conference is held.
The captaincy became vacant when Backes, who had held the honor since 2011, signed a five-year, $30 million contract with Boston in July. He was in Pietrangelo’s wedding on July 2, a day after leaving the Blues, and joked that he wanted to wrap up the “C” and give it to the defenseman as a present.
Backes wasn’t able to do that. But less than two months later, the Blues are presenting Pietrangelo with the role as the team’s leader.
The 26-year-old was taken fourth in the 2008 NHL draft. He was twice sent back his junior hockey team after brief tryouts with the Blues, but he now has played six full seasons and become one of the league’s elite defensemen.
Pietrangelo, who has 51 goals and 255 points in 459 games, finished fourth in the Norris Trophy (NHL’s best defenseman) voting in 2011-12 and he’s received All-Star votes in each of the last five seasons.
He has been among the top 11 in the league in ice time in the same stretch, ranking No. 6 last season at 26 minutes, 18 seconds per game.
Pietrangelo has four years remaining on a seven-year, $45.5 million contract he signed in 2013. His annual average value of $6.5 million ranks second on the team behind forward Vladimir Tarasenko ($7.5 million).
Pietrangelo will become the 10th Blues defenseman to wear the “C,” following Eric Brewer, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger, Garth Butcher, Scott Stevens, Barry Gibbs, Barclay Plager, Bob Plager and Al Arbour.
After the naming of Pietrangelo as captain Thursday, 24 of the 30 teams in the NHL will have one player wearing the ‘C’ and he will be one of only six defensemen.
The others are Zdeno Chara (Boston), Mark Giordano (Calgary), Andy Greene (New Jersey Devils), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) and Erik Karlsson (Ottawa).
CANADA CALLS BOUWMEESTER
Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has been added to the Team Canada roster for the World Cup of Hockey tournament. He will replace injured Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith.
Bouwmeester is a Team Canada veteran, having played in the 2006 and 2014 Olympics, winning a gold medal in ’14. He also played for Canada at the world championships in 2008 and 2003.
Bouwmeester joins Pietrangelo on the Team Canada squad.
Other Blues headed to the tournament, which will be played in Toronto, are Tarasenko (Russia), Jori Lehtera (Finland), Dmitrij Jaskin (Czech Republic) and Colton Parayko (North America). Alexander Steen was chosen for Sweden’s roster but will miss the tournament because of an injury.
Vladimir Sobotka, who by all indications will be back with the Blues this season, was chosen to the Czech Republic team as well.
The tourney is to take place from Sept. 17-Oct. 1.
Tom Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.