Free Agent Profile: Alex Pietrangelo, Elite Right-Handed Defenseman

Alex Pietrangelo Raises Stanley Cup
Alex Pietrangelo hoists the Stanley Cup high after the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. (Photo via Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Introduction

Alex Pietrangelo is the name at the top of a very deep free agent pool for defensemen this upcoming off-season. While he is best known for his play on the blue line, Pietrangelo is a former Stanley Cup winning captain on a team that faced some of the greatest adversity to reach the top of that mountain. With Alex Pietrangelo, you are not just paying for a top defenseman in the league. You are also getting a leader and a grizzled veteran.

When it comes to the possibility of re-signing with the Blues, it is worth noting it is a possibility. In this article though, we are gonna have some fun. We are going to examine if the New Jersey Devils should go after Alex Pietrangelo. And what it may take.

Devils Cap Space and Roster

In this hypothetical scenario, it is best to try and analyze what the Devils’ cap situation and roster will look like. For the purposes of this article, I used CapFriendly to evaluate the Devils’ current situation.

For a more in-depth view of the Devils off-season situation, check out the guide our very own James Villani has written.

In the scenario of signing Pietrangelo, I had the Devils re-sign Nick Merkley, Joseph Anderson, Jesper Bratt, Mackenzie Blackwood, Josh Jacobs, Brett Seney, and Fredrik Claesson. After re-signing those players to contracts, the Devils have $10,875,000 in cap space available with the assumption that both P.K. Subban and Cory Schneider are on the roster with their respective cap hits.

Out of those two players, the one that is more likely to be moved for the sake of cap space would be Cory Schneider. The Devils are not up against the cap right now, and also need to stay flexible with their cap for the future when all the young talent will need to be paid. As a result, there is no pressing incentive to try and move players for cap space at the moment.

The Cap Value for Pietrangelo

The next step in the process of evaluating what potentially signing Pietrangelo would look like. This requires taking multiple factors into account.

The number one factor is that there needs to be a mutual interest to come to New Jersey. Other factors are what the salary cap in the league will look like in the future, what the cap hits of other top defensemen around the league are, and what the Devils cap space looks like for the next couple seasons. Just to mention a few.

Pietrangelo is entering free agency at 30-years-old. While it may be enticing to offer a six-year deal at that age, it cannot be more than four years. More on why later.

In comparison to other top former defensive free agents, I could see Pietrangelo’s deal being right around eight-million. Examples being Washington’s John Carlson, San Jose’s Brent Burns, and New York’s Jacob Trouba all having an eight-million dollar cap hit. Other examples include Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, Montreal’s Shea Weber, and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter having a cap hit just under eight-million.

An eight-million dollar cap hit for Pietrangelo would be a raise from his previous salary of $6,500,000. There will more than likely be a team or teams that will offer him too much. But it is unknown especially given that the salary cap will remain flat this offseason.

Bringing It All Together

The Devils could go after Alex Pietrangelo this free agency in an effort to vastly improve the team’s defense. As it is no secret that the back end needs to be improved this off-season.

That being said, if the Devils were able to sign Pietrangelo to a four-year deal with a cap hit of eight-million, this would surely help address the issue. However, it would also create a bit of a log jam in terms of right-handed defenseman on the team.

The Devils have Damon Severson and P.K. Subban both serving this role already. The remaining defensemen would include Will Butcher, Connor Carrick, Fredrik Claesson, and Ty Smith. Bringing in Pietrangelo on this type of deal would also leave the Devils with only $3,825,000 million in cap space.

One of the main reasons Pietrangelo should not receive more than any four years has nothing to do with regression. The Devils have a lot of great prospects that will all need to be paid down the road. Jesper Bratt and Mackenzie Blackwood are up for new contracts this off-season and certainly each deserve a long-term deal and significant pay raise. Other examples include: Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, Nolan Foote, Janne Kuokkanen, and Kevin Bahl.

Conclusion

The Devils need to improve the defensive core. Lucky for them, this is a solid defensive free agent group. I do not see a way the Devils can bring Alex Pietrangelo in without moving another top defensemen on the roster such as Damon Severson or P.K. Subban.

Other alternative defense options are T.J. Brodie, Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon, Radko Gudas, Joel Edmundson, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and the list goes even further. The Devils do not need to sign the best defenseman. They need to sign the right one(s) and ensure the continued development of others in the system.

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