Bouwmeester Accepts Trade to Blues
It’s no secret the St. Louis Blues have been coveting a left-shot D-Man to bolster their back end. On Monday they captured the best available player as veteran Jay Bouwmeester agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
The Blues interest in Bouwmeester goes back to last June at the NHL draft where the two sides thought they had a deal on the table. For one reason or other talks broke off and the trade never materialized.
Fast forward to April and Bouwmeester is a Blue at a time when they desperately need him. His addition, along with recently acquired Jordan Leopold, gives the Blues four defensemen averaging north of 20 minutes per game. Throw in Barret Jackman and Roman Polak, who average over 19 and 18 minutes respectively, and St. Louis has quickly transformed into one of the deeper groups in the West.
With Bouwmeester you get world class skating ability and durability. He’s notorious for being a guy teammates say never gets tired. He’s the player who plays 29 minutes and still wakes up early on an off day to go on a 15 mile hike or bike ride. Current Flames D-man Chris Butler told me last summer he’s never seen anything like it.
Bouwmeester is one of only eight players in the league to average over 20 minutes of even strength ice time per game. He’s also the current NHL Ironman having played 611 consecutive games, a streak that remains intact moving forward with St. Louis.
Internally the Blues questioned if Leopold could play against top players every night. With Bouwmeester there is no concern. He’s done it virtually his entire career and his responsibility won’t be changing anytime soon.
If anything he’ll see even more ice than the 25:09 he averaged with the Flames.
Bouwmeester entered the NHL with enormous expectations. As a 16 year-old he became the youngest player ever to represent Canada in the World Junior Championships.
While he’s had a good NHL career he’s never discovered the greatness many expected after being drafted third overall in 2002.
The reality is a lot of people judge him solely on the money he makes. Is he a $6.6 million player? Probably not but then again I could rattle off a dozen NHL players who are severely overpaid.
He gives the Blues exactly what they need in terms of a legitimate top four D-man who’ll shed some burden off of the shoulders of Alex Pietrangelo . Ken Hitchcock now has six reliable options to kill penalties and play the match up game he enjoys.
If the Blues decide to pair Kevin Shattenkirk with Leopold, they now have each of their D-men slotted nicely with Jackman and Polak potentially creating a formidable shutdown pair.
Jackman and Shattenkirk have chemistry and I won’t rule them out playing together.
Jackman and Polak could kill penalties together along with Bouwmeester and Pietrangelo without disrupting the even strength pairings.
Bouwmeester, described as a shy soft spoken individual, isn’t flashy but his strengths are obvious. If you watched him against the Blues last week you got a taste of how his skating drives his game. He doesn’t hesitate to jump in transition and because of his mobility can recover quickly.
He doesn’t have the swiftest of hands which probably contributes to his lack of scoring production. He did put up some decent numbers in Florida but never reached the same level in Calgary.
Defensively scouts will tell you does a nice job containing the zone. He isn’t the hard-nosed, grind it out D-man the Blues could probably use but his skating allows him to keep the play in front of him.
Most are surprised to hear he’s never played a playoff game in his NHL or junior career going back to his days with Medicine Hat in the WHL. He did play in the playoffs with the Chicago wolves during the 2004-2005 lockout.
Bouwmeester has 15 points on the year but his minus-11 ranks among the worst in the league among D-men. He’s struggled in his last five games having gone scoreless with a minus-6 rating. Much of his plus/minus woes can largely be attributed to a struggling Calgary club that gives up the most 5 on 5 goals against in the NHL.
The Blues now have 24 players and nine D-men which is ok considering rosters become unlimited after Wednesday’s trade deadline. Doug Armstrong tells me the immigration process will take some time and Bouwmeester won’t officially be added until rosters expand.
Still there’s a logjam.
With Kris Russell becoming your seventh defensemen guys like Wade Redden and Ian Cole are in limbo.
With the trade deadline over 24 hours away there’s still time to swing another deal if Armstrong so chooses.
Welcome to Calgary…
In exchange for Bouwmeester the Blues gave up a first round pick, D-man Mark Cundari, and goaltender Reto Berra.
Cundari is undersized but brings a high compete level. He played on some great Memorial Cup winning teams with Windsor in the OHL where he was successful in shutting down top players including John Tavares. He made the AHL All-Star team this season and could land a spot with the Flames. If anything he’s a capable callup player down the line.
Berra is a tall, lanky goaltender standing 6’4. He played in the top Swiss league this past season where his team earned a late season playoff spot. He’s come over in the past for Blues prospects camps but never really factored into the plans moving forward.
The first round pick Calgary receives counts towards this season only if the Blues make the playoffs, otherwise they get the Blues first in 2014 along with a fourth.
It won’t be long before the Blues payroll on defense starts looking like the Vancouver Canucks. With Bouwmeester and his $6.6 salary on the books next season, the Blues will likely have three D-men making north of $4 million. Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are due raises after this year, Jackman and Polak combine for over $6 million in salary next season.
Andy McDonald’s $4.2 million comes off after this year but Patrik Berglund and Chris Stewart, both RFa’s, will have a decent asking price.
Goaltender Jaro Halak appeared to have re-injured an ongoing groin issue late in the first period. These things tend to linger and it’s possible he could miss most, if not all, of the remaining regular season games.
Jake Allen will obviously return.
More to come,
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