Toronto Maple Leafs: Chances to sign Alex Pietrangelo improving

Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Alex Pietrangelo #27 of the St. Louis Blues. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

With reports suggesting that contract talks between Alex Pietrangelo and the St. Louis Blues have broken down, an opportunity is open to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two years after John Tavares made the surprising decision to leave the New York Islanders for the Toronto Maple Leafs, could they find themselves in the same position with Alex Pietrangelo?

For most of the season, the feeling was that the St. Louis Blues would do whatever they could to get their captain re-signed and even if he would go to the open market, it was unlikely to see him come to Toronto. The past few days have changed that sentiment dramatically.

It all started when Pierre LeBrun suggested on TSN 1050 that if Pietrangelo hit the open market, there would be mutual interest between the Leafs and the pending free agent defenceman. Then Darren Dreger sent out a pair of tweets that sent the hockey world into a frenzy.

Up until this point, there had been no indication of any issues with the contract talks between Pietrangelo and the Blues. Moving out Jake Allen‘s salary also suggested that the team was moving out salary to make a move viable and while there’s still a chance he will return, the latest reports suggest that both sides are far apart.

As Jeremy Rutherford of the Athletic wrote on Twitter, the issues with the negotiations are not just related to the salary. It appears the structure of the contract is also an issue which could mean anything from signing bonuses and a potential no-movement clause.

"“You can talk about money all you want and dollars,” Pietrangelo said via “But there’s more to a contract than the actual number, and there’s a lot that goes into the discussion of how you want a contract to be done. I’m not going to confirm or deny any numbers; it’s just we clearly weren’t able to get to a number that we thought was appropriate on both sides.”"

More from Tip of the Tower

Now, sometimes players try to use the media to improve their negotiating position and but this doesn’t appear to be the case with Pietrangelo. As the captain of the team, it’s pretty damning to hear him say this considering he said a couple of weeks ago that his intention was to re-sign in St. Louis.

Now Rutherford said the most recent offer was between $7.7 million to $8 million which would be seen as below market value when you consider some of the contracts that top defencemen have earned.

This seems like a similar situation as what Steven Stamkos went through a few years ago where he took a meeting with different teams (including the Leafs) and ultimately decided to return to Tampa Bay. Of course, Toronto’s situation was different at the time.

There has been a lot of excitement within Leafs Nation because of these developments and for good reason. A defenceman of Pietrangelo’s calibre does not usually hit the open market and to get one without giving up assets over dollars is what led to the decision to sign Tavares.

A concern that has been expressed is allocating a big cap hit to one player instead of adding a couple of players instead. On top of that, the Leafs will have to move out contracts in order to make room for Pietrangelo and that will obviously weaken the roster.

What seems to be forgotten here is that by getting a player like Pietrangelo, it adds a legitimate top defenceman and Toronto has to see if Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin can make the jump along with Mikko Lehtonen.

Then you also have to think about the Leafs need for a different mix upfront with their forwards. It seems unlikely that Andreas Johnsson or Alexander Kerfoot return given the amount of trade talk there has been about them although moving Johnsson would be preferred considering Kerfoot is a centre.

Recently we spoke about Wayne Simmonds looking at Toronto as a potential landing spot in free agency and that’s a situation where the Leafs could try to bring him in at a reasonable cap hit.

Then looking at more players at league minimum like Jason Spezza has been a focal point of the team’s free agency plan. The Leafs can also do this on the blue line as well considering they added Luke Schenn at $700,000 and he’s provided them with some tough minutes through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Of course, the Leafs have an advantage other teams can’t or will have a tough time offering during the tough financial times and that’s more money upfront in a salary bonus. It might seem like a small thing but with NHL teams across the league looking to cut payroll and actually money they pay a player, the Leafs should be ready to show their financial strength in a way that will certainly get some attention.

Related Story. 4 potential replacements for Frederik Andersen. light

What do you think the Leafs should do if Pietrangelo hits the open market? Is there a chance they can make the salary work? Let us know in the comments below.