There are just six defensemen still under the age of 26 who recorded at least 40 points last season. Two of them are members of the St. Louis Blues.
Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk both broke out in 2010-11 and followed it up with similar numbers last season. They combined for 94 points in 2011-12 on a team that ranked in the bottom third in terms of goals scored.
On top of that, Pietrangelo is just 22 years old while Shattenkirk is 23, so the duo could be with the St. Louis Blues for a very, very long time. Of course, someone might have said the same thing about Shea Weber and Ryan Suter just a few years ago.
Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk are scheduled to become restricted free agents next summer. It would be shocking if the Blues were unable to retain their services, but it will give us our first real insight into their long-term intentions. Will they be interested in signing extremely long-term contracts — if that option is still available under the new CBA — or will they lean towards signing shorter deals so that they can retain the option of eventually testing the unrestricted free agent waters?
Part of that could depend on how the St. Louis Blues do next season. They seem like a franchise on the rise, but if they struggle to get anywhere in the playoffs, then their young, talented players might be less inclined to make a long-term commitment.
For now though, the Blues can enjoy having arguably the best young duo of offensive defensemen.