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NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Alex Pietrangelo, Blues, Jack Eichel's Future

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIIJuly 9, 2020

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) and left wing David Perron (57) line up for a face-off during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Tuesday, March 3, 2020, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Although the NHL free-agency period isn't likely to start until much later than usual, that doesn't change the fact that some top players will be available for teams to sign when it arrives.

With the league hoping to resume the 2019-20 season later in July, free agency won't come until November, assuming everything goes according to plan. That means some players will remain unsure of their futures in the meantime.

One of the stars set to become a free agent this offseason is St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who will surely garner interest should he hit the market. However, the team has extra time to work out a deal with him, making it an interesting situation to watch.

Here's some of the recent buzz from around the NHL, including the latest on Pietrangelo's future in St. Louis.

                        

No Recent Contract Talks for Pietrangelo, Blues

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It's possible things are going to get tricky for the St. Louis Blues this offseason as they try to stay under the league's salary cap while also attempting to retain two of their top defensemen.

According to The Athletic's Scott Burnside, the NHL salary cap is going to stay at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season. As Jeremy Rutherford of the same publication noted, that only leaves about $2 million in cap space for the Blues, who might want to find a way to bring back Pietrangelo and soon-to-be restricted free agent Vince Dunn.

Because the NHL is planning to resume the 2019-20 season later this summer, players' contracts now won't expire until Oct. 31. However, it doesn't appear St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong has used the recent downtime to begin negotiations with Pietrangelo.

"Despite now having a cap ceiling, there have been no recent conversations between the Blues and Pietrangelo's representatives at Newport Sports Management, according to sources," Rutherford wrote. "Armstrong had said prior to the pause that the club would wait until after the playoffs to negotiate with Pietrangelo, and it's not known whether he's sticking to that plan under the reworked calendar."

Rutherford noted that Pietrangelo and Dunn "could fetch a combined $12 million," so if St. Louis wants to bring back both blueliners, it may be "forced to make some major moves."

While the Blues have several solid defensemen under contract for the near future, such as Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Colton Parayko, it would be a big loss if Pietrangelo and/or Dunn don't return, particularly the former.

Pietrangelo, 30, has served as the Blues captain since 2016-17 and spent his entire 12-year NHL career with St. Louis, receiving two All-Star selections and leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 2019.

                   

Will Eichel Want to Stay in Buffalo?

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 23: Jack Eichel #9 of the Buffalo Sabres looks to make a pass during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at KeyBank Center on February 23, 2020 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

There have been rumors this offseason about whether Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel would be willing to seek a trade. Some of those have stemmed from the center's comments in May, when he said he was "fed up with the losing" and was "frustrated," per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.

In June, the Sabres made a leadership change, firing general manager Jason Botterill and replacing him with Kevyn Adams. And while it doesn't change the fact that Buffalo has missed the playoffs in nine straight seasons and hasn't won a postseason series since 2007, it is a sign that the franchise is moving in a new direction.

Could that lead to Eichel staying with the Sabres for the long term? NHL.com's Dan Rosen can see one big reason why he wouldn't want to leave.

"Eichel likes coach Ralph Krueger, and that's significant," he wrote. "If he didn't like the coach on top of being frustrated, I could see him being more inclined to ask management to trade him."

Krueger was hired by Buffalo in May 2019. In his first season leading the team, the Sabres went 30-31-8. From 2012 to 2019, they never won more than 35 games in a season, so it's possible they could have reached that mark had they played their final 13 games of the regular season.

Eichel, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has continued to improve through his first five NHL seasons. In 2018-19, he tallied 82 points (28 goals and a career-high 54 assists) in 77 games; this season, he had 78 points, including a career-high 36 goals, in 68 games.

Unless the 23-year-old gets traded, he's set to be in Buffalo for a long time—his contract doesn't expire until the end of the 2025-26 season.

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