Petro power: Get to know the newest Golden Knight, Alex Pietrangelo

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Isaac Brekken/AP

Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) skate down the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Thu, Oct 15, 2020 (2 a.m.)

It’s been a busy offseason for the Golden Knights. They’ve signed Robin Lehner and Chandler Stephenson to extensions, said goodbye to Jon Merrill and Nick Cousins in free agency, and traded away Paul Stastny and Nate Schmidt to clear cap space. Space for what? Only the biggest free agent on this year’s market.

On October 12, Vegas signed Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year contract with an average price tag of $8.8 million per year. The 6-3, 210-pound 30-year-old, who has spent his entire NHL career with St. Louis, is expected to transform the Golden Knights on and off the ice.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team that play at an elite level, and I think I can fit in well,” Pietrangelo said. “[My wife,] Jayne, and I are getting completely outside of our comfort zone with what we have in our life right now, and I think it’s a challenge we’re going to welcome with open arms.”

Here are five things to know about the newest Golden Knight.

1. They call him Petro.

Drafted fourth overall by the Blues in 2008, Pietrangelo made his NHL debut later that year. He’s from King City, Ontario, near Toronto, and played his junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, where he was given the nickname “Petro.”

He became a regular for the Blues in 2010 and has played at least 71 games in each full season since, while averaging at least half a point per game. He’s a three-time postseason All-Star and, most significantly, helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup two seasons ago.

2. He’s got captain on his résumé.

The Golden Knights lost a lot of leadership in Schmidt, Stastny and Deryk Engelland—all of whom have worn the “A” as alternate captains here—but they’re getting a player known for possessing that quality.

Pietrangelo has been the Blues’ captain the past four years and was an alternate captain for three years before that. As the unquestioned leader of the Blues, he was the first player in team history to raise the Stanley Cup.

Many expect Mark Stone to become the first captain in VGK history, but it likely won’t be long before Pietrangelo wears an “A” on his sweater here.

3. He’ll bolster the blue-line corps.

Last year Pietrangelo tallied a career-best 16 goals (second among NHL defensemen) and 52 points, which would have placed him fourth among all Golden Knights skaters. According to advanced stats site Evolving-Hockey, Pietrangelo was worth 18.2 Goals Above Replacement, third among all defensemen and eighth among all NHL players. He also finished fourth in the voting for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman.

Pietrangelo will likely slide in next to Brayden McNabb on the team’s top defensive pair (where Schmidt previously played) to become one of the league’s top lockdown combos. That would allow Shea Theodore, who thrived with Alec Martinez, to feast on opposing down-lineup players without routinely defending the game’s best forwards.

Pietrangelo can also play in all situations. He has averaged nearly 25 minutes per game over the past decade and more than 27 minutes in the playoffs. A fixture on both the Blues’ power play and penalty kill, he’ll be counted on to help protect leads—or generate goals—late in close games. In short, he’s a do-it-all player who does it all at an elite level.

4. He’ll help VGK keep pace in the West.

This offseason has seen an arms race in the Western Conference, with two teams appearing to split from the pack. After signing Pietrangelo, the Westgate SuperBook put Vegas 6-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup, best in the entire league. Not far behind: the Colorado Avalanche, which, at 8-to-1, is the only other Western team with better than 20-to-1 odds at the Cup.

On paper, Pietrangelo elevates Vegas over most of its Western rivals, raising fans’ already lofty expectations for the team. The Golden Knights reached the conference final without him last season; now, anything short will feel like a disappointment.

5. He’s here to stay.

Right now, no one on the Vegas roster is signed for longer than Pietrangelo. Along with Mark Stone and William Karlsson, he’s inked for seven seasons, through 2026-27. Pietrangelo and Stone are also the only VGK players with no-movement clauses in their contracts, meaning they cannot be traded without their consent.

There’s an inherent danger in that, of course. Pietrangelo will be 31 in January, when the next NHL season is expected to start, and will turn 37 before his contract runs out. If he drops off as he ages, Vegas could find itself in salary cap trouble by the end of his deal.

But the Golden Knights will worry about that later. They’re a team built to win now, and there’s little doubt Pietrangelo—an elite player on a potential Hall of Fame track—will help them do that.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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