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Alex Pietrangelo embraces new challenge with Golden Knights

The pull was always there for Alex Pietrangelo to stay in St. Louis.

He won a Stanley Cup there. His wife, Jayne, is from the area. And moving halfway across the country with four kids 2 and younger — 2-year-old triplets and a 1-month-old — wouldn’t be easy.

But when the Golden Knights called on the first day of NHL free agency Friday, Pietrangelo was intrigued. He was interested enough to visit Las Vegas on Saturday, and by Monday he became the most expensive free agent signing in franchise history.

The Knights think he’s worth the seven-year, $61.6 million contract and everything it took to make it possible. And Pietrangelo is ready to take on a fresh challenge and play for his second Cup in a different city.

“I welcome something new,” he said Tuesday. “It’s going to push me to be a better player. It’s hopefully going to get me outside of my comfort zone to certainly try something that I’ve never done before. This is a good team. I think I can really help.”

Pietrangelo said as free agency approached, his first priority was to sign a new deal with the Blues. The 30-year-old was drafted by the organization in 2008, became one of the league’s top two-way defensemen and was the team’s captain for the last four seasons.

But as negotiations dragged out and free agency neared, it didn’t look as if a contract was going to get done. So Pietrangelo decided to explore his options, and St. Louis pivoted to signing free agent defenseman Torey Krug to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal.

That led to his Saturday visit with the Knights. He was intrigued by the potential on-ice fit after watching another skilled defenseman, Shea Theodore, shine with the team in the postseason. A conversation with coach Pete DeBoer confirmed he could thrive in the system.

“I think, coming from Craig Berube and the way he coaches, it’s similar,” said Pietrangelo, whose career-high 16 goals last season would have broken the Knights’ record for a defenseman. “They want the D to be active. They want the D to be up in the play. They want the D to make plays up-tempo style, move the puck. Defend by playing with the puck and being in the offensive zone. I did find some similarities, which makes me feel more comfortable going into this.”

Pietrangelo’s other questions were about the off-ice fit. He visited former Blues teammate Paul Stastny when he was in town, and even though the center had just been traded by the Knights to Winnipeg, he raved about the organization and the way families were treated. A tour of Summerlin and the team’s practice facility at City National Arena helped ease concerns, too.

The visit helped solidify what Pietrangelo already thought. He said he had opportunities to visit other teams but decided not to.

“I wanted to make sure that they’re sharing the same passion that I am for winning,” Pietrangelo said. “They do. That’s why I made the commitment.”

His next steps are preparing for the first move of his career and getting to know his new teammates. Pietrangelo is already friends with former Blues player Ryan Reaves, and he said he talked with right wing Mark Stone on Tuesday.

Pietrangelo also called Theodore on Tuesday to tell him how excited he was to play with him. The two skilled blue liners have a chance to be NHL and Olympic teammates, because they’re options for Team Canada in 2022.

To get the relationship started on the right foot, Pietrangelo told Theodore he can keep wearing No. 27, his number with the Blues. Pietrangelo will wear No. 7.

It’s another adjustment, but one he’s eager to tackle.

“As I talked to teams and flew out to Vegas, you get excited about that opportunity,” Pietrangelo said. “You get excited about fitting into a new group and a new challenge of fitting into a new system, new coaches and all that.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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