Trading a longtime goaltender who lost his starting job could be the first step toward the St. Louis Blues keeping their Stanley Cup-winning captain.
The Blues traded goaltender Jake Allen to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday in a move that clears valuable salary cap space to try to re-sign captain and top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. St. Louis received a third- and a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft and also sent a 2022 seventh-rounder to Montreal.
The key to the deal is getting Allen’s $4.35 million cap hit off the books to potentially keep Pietrangelo in the fold.
“It was a combination for the St. Louis Blues of creating some potential cap space to either sign our own current players or get into the market at a different time, plus allowing young players to get their opportunity in the league,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I don’t think we’ve made any secret that we’d love to get Alex signed, and I think Alex has made it know that he would like to sign here, so we’re going to have to work through that. At the end of the day, it’s a math equation.”
That math equation isn’t solved yet. Even after trading Allen, St. Louis has just over $6 million in space under the $81.5 million cap ceiling. Armstrong joked that the equation was “81.5 million divided by 23” for the Blues roster size, but more than that will be required to keep Pietrangelo, who is expected to be among the top players available when free agency opens in October.
One option is putting injured winger on Vladimir Tarasenko on long-term injured reserve when next season begins, deferring a decision until he returns from shoulder surgery. It’s the third operation in 2 1/2 years on Tarasenko’s left shoulder, and he will be re-evaluated in five months.
Pietrangelo, 30, who lifted the Cup in Boston last year after St. Louis won its first title in franchise history, has said he wants to stay with the Blues.
“This is the only place I know professionally,” Pietrangelo said. “Family’s here, I grew up here as a player and as a person. (Free agency is) part of the business, unfortunately, and the situation it is what it is, but hopefully that circumstance doesn’t happen and we’ll see where this thing takes us.”
Pietrangelo’s agent, Mark Guy, didn’t immediately respond to a message asking about the state of negotiations. Armstrong declined to address the situation.
Trading Allen makes it clear Jordan Binnington is the Blues’ starting goalie. After coming out of nowhere in the middle of the 2018-19 season and backstopping them to the Cup, Binnington was only average during the regular season and he struggled in the playoffs.
The Blues turned to Allen for their only two victories of the NHL restart, but coach Craig Berube still turned back to Binnington when facing elimination.
“This does show that our faith is that we’re going to take Jordan Binnington’s NHL career going back to January of ’19 through today and say there was a lot more positives than negatives and we believe he could be the man,” Armstrong said.
Allen gets a fresh start as a clear backup to Montreal starter Carey Price. While the Canadiens have wavered year to year on their backup situation, Price playing a league-high 58 games this season was enough to prompt a change.
The 30-year-old Allen didn’t expect to be starting next season in St. Louis.
“I knew coming into this offseason after being eliminated that there was a chance I was going to get traded,” Allen said. “Had no idea where, for me. All the other teams in the league were options in the way I saw it.”
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