Another season has come and gone and the Toronto Maple Leafs have once again let their fan base down.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Pietrangelo appear on the surface to be a perfect fit. The Leafs need a right handed defender, and one of the best ones in the NHL is an unrestricted free-agent.
So far under Kyle Dubas, we have seen maneuvers where Toronto has an asset that is clearly out of commission, but management put’s that cap to use, extending their own hard cap. Signing and trading contracts and manipulating the salary cap is Toronto’s strength. Do we see Dubas and Pridham perform another magic trick, pulling out a bad contract out of thin air to help?
Now we look at potential unrestricted free agent and King City resident, Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo is listed at 6’3 and 210 pounds, while being right handed.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Alex Pietrangelo
Alex is currently the captain of the St. Louis Blues, having been deployed as their #1 defenseman. Any contract Pietrangelo signs will not be cheaper than his previous deal of 7 years over 6.5 million dollars.
If Pietrangelo does in fact hit free agency, will Toronto be able to reach the financial demands of Pietrangelo? It is being reported that Pietrangelo is not thrilled with how negotiations have gone and is willing to meet with teams as well. We can’t truly blame Alex here, as it looked like Blues GM Doug Armstrong put this negotiation on the back burner. As a result, Alex probably feels slightly neglected and miffed by not being a priority.
Toronto is currently sitting with $6.1 million in space, with notable free agents; Dermott and Mikheyev to re-sign. Dubas will have to seriously change this roster in order to fit in Alex Pietrangelo and his contract.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been in desperate need for a surefire, bonafide top pairing, right handed defenceman since Tim Horton, himself, or Dmitri Yuskevich if you want.
If Alex wants to remain a #1 defenseman, he will have that role for as long as he wants with the Leafs. If Toronto wants pedigree, Pietrangelo has championship experience wherever he has played; Olympic gold medal and a Stanley cup, scoring the game winning goal in game 7.
The biggest concern is Kyle Dubas having to eviscerate the most important pieces of the Leafs roster, trying to fit in Pietrangelo. He is one the best defensemen in the NHL, but is he worth the necessary cuts to the roster it will take to fit him in?
Pietrangelo is now 30, raising concerns about how much he has left in the tank, especially with signing a potential contract he’s asking for. Is that term and cap hit worth it for his age? One example to hope happens is the Zdeno Chara effect; stay relevant on the ice, when you shouldn’t have any business being there. Chara is 43 and was still playing meaningful minutes for the Boston Bruins.
Pietrangelo is coming off of one of the better seasons of his career as well, posting 52 points in 70 games, meaning he would likely have a career high in points this season. Pietrangelo’s highest point total in any season was 54 points in 78 games in 2017-18.
As far as possession stats, Pietrangelo is still elite with puck possession, being a positive corsi defenseman and his graphs from evolving hockey, suggest this as well. Alex Pietrangelo has a lot left to give for his career, for whomever he signs with.
With that in mind, it comes down to not only genetics but sport science and Toronto is one of the biggest leaders with this. If there’s any concern about Pietrangelo declining with the Leafs, Toronto has a nice track record on being able to revive and prolong careers.
There’s no denying it, Alex Pietrangelo would be a perfect fit for Toronto- blending size, skill and toughness into one horse of a defenseman, who has a career average of 24 minutes a game. It really comes down to if Pietrangelo is willing to come down from his current 9.5 million dollar request and sign a bonus laden contract for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto can give him the same role, money and safety, at home, in front of friends and family. Alex has a huge, career altering decision to make- cement your legacy as one of the greatest Blues ever and retire there, or come home and try to achieve something that hasn’t been achieved since Black and White television.
Now for the biggest decision of Alex’s life; Stay in St. Louis and cement his legacy, or come home and forever be known as the defenseman, who helped achieve the impossible.