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Blues, D Pietrangelo agree on 7-year contract

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Blues and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo agreed on a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with a no-trade clause over the final three years, ending a brief holdout.

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The deal was announced Friday, one day after the first practice of training camp. General manager Doug Armstrong said it was a strong signal that the Blues intend for the 23-year-old Pietrangelo, the fourth overall pick of the 2008 draft and one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL, to spend his career in St. Louis.

A news conference for Armstrong and Pietrangelo (Pet-TRANJ'-el-oh) was set for Saturday.

``What I said to him, `This isn't a seven-year deal, this is just another steppingstone,'' Armstrong said. ``I think he's excited to be here, I know we're excited to have him, get him in here and turn him over to the coach.''

The Blues had hoped to get a deal before training camp but talks briefly broke down. Armstrong said negotiations resumed Thursday and ``we were able to wrap up all the loose ends that were there.''

Pietrangelo tweeted, ``Really excited to be a part of Blues organization for the next 7 years.''

He will average $6.5 million on a deal that will gradually escalate, making $5 million this season and peaking at $7.5 million in the final season.

``It's something that's ongoing because both sides wanted to get it done, and a lot of credit goes to ultimately Alex,'' Armstrong said. ``As we said a couple days ago, Alex makes these decisions. Not his agent, not anyone else. Today, when I talked to him he was satisfied.''

Players got the news coming off the ice.

Forward David Backes, the team captain, called Pietrangelo a ``supreme talent'' who is able to shut down the opposition's top forward without sacrificing offense.

``He's a top defenseman in this league, no question,'' Backes said. ``To know that he's with us, we can knock that distraction off the list, kind of that peripheral noise. We know that we've got our guys together.''

Pietrangelo led the team's defensemen with 24 points - five goals and 19 assists - and was among the league leaders with an average of 25 minutes per game. He's been a regular the past three seasons.

Armstrong said it had been a matter of when - not if - the parties agreed on a deal. Backes pointed out that Pietrangelo has ``set some roots.''

``You knew that he was going to be here long term, you just didn't know how much the business side was going to get in the way,'' Backes said. ``In the end, there's a lot of happy people on both sides.

``After he takes a little bit of razzing from the guys for not being here, he'll be right back in the group and together with us like he should be.''

Coach Ken Hitchcock didn't think it would take Pietrangelo long to catch up with the rest of the team. The Blues open the preseason Sunday at Dallas.

``We kept him up to date until we couldn't speak to him anymore,'' Hitchcock said. ``He knows the last couple weeks what's going on ... players have kept him up to date.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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