Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blues get Bouwmeester from Calgary

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: April 2, 2013| Contact  |

The Blues made a surprising move on Monday evening, acquiring veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames. The Blues traded their 2013 first-round draft pick, defenseman Mark Cundari, and the rights to goaltender Reto Berra in order to acquire Bouwmeester in a move that should solidify their blueline.

"We've been looking to acquire a top left-handed defenseman and Jay represents that and is an elite player in our game,” said Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong.

The price for Bouwmeester was assumed to be rather high, but the Blues had been craving a top defenseman for too long to let Bouwmeester slip. Defensive prospect Cundari, who is 22 years old, has spent the season in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Peoria Rivermen. Cundari has missed the last three games due to a wrist injury. The young defenseman has had a solid season with Peoria, playing in 56 games and accumulating 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists). Cundari was signed by the Blues as a free agent in 2008 and has yet to play in his first National Hockey League (NHL) game. The other prospect going Calgary’s way is 26-year-old goaltender Berra who is currently playing in the Swiss “A” league. Berra was the Blues’ 2006 fourth-round pick.

Bouwmeester’s acquisition comes on the heels of the club’s trade on Saturday to bring defenseman Jordan Leopold to St. Louis. Leopold played in his first game with the Note on Monday, the same day the Bouwmeester deal was announced. With two new blueliners on the club, it goes without saying that the Blues are feeling great about where they stand defensively.

In his career, Bouwmeester has suited up for 750 NHL games with the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames. He has accumulated 300 points (71 goals, 229 assists) and 463 penalty minutes in his ten NHL seasons. Perhaps the most surprising piece of information about Bouwmeester is that he has never played in a playoff game. The Blues plan to end that drought for the veteran.

This year, Bouwmeester has 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 33 games with the Flames. He should see his offensive numbers increase with the Blues as he will likely be paired with young stud Alex Pietrangelo.

Bouwmeester is the type of player that will allow Alex Pietrangelo to focus more on his offensive game, while providing solid defense in front of the team’s goaltender. The Blues really like Bouwmeester’s versatility, as well as his durability. Bouwmeester currently holds the NHL’s “ironman streak” of 621 consecutive NHL games played, a streak that was started on March 6, 2004. That streak comes despite averaging over 25 minutes of ice time per game. His reliability is much welcomed by a Blues club that has had its fair share of injuries the past few seasons. Now the team has plenty of depth on defense if an injury does happen, as well as many different defensive options moving forward. In a matter of days, the Blues' defense has formed a completely new identity. 

The 6-foot-4, 212 defenseman has one year remaining on his five-year $33.4 million contract. Bouwmeester will make $6.8 million next season, making him currently the highest-paid players on the Blues' roster. The move reflects the Blues' new ownership group, led by beer distributor Tom Stillman. The Blues, even with the acquisition of Bouwmeester, still have the third-lowest payroll in the NHL according to Capgeek. Of course, that is likely to change this coming offseason with many players due for healthy raises.

The Blues did catch a bit of a break with the timing of the trade. Because Bouwmeester is not considered a roster player, due to pending immigration, the Blues will not be required to clear a roster spot for the veteran. By the time Bouwmeester joins the Blues, the NHL rosters will have expanded. Until the April 3 deadline passes on Wednesday at 2 p.m. CT, nothing is certain, however, it appears that the Blues plan to carry nine defensemen on their NHL roster for the remainder of the season. Ian Cole, Kris Russell, and Wade Redden will likely be spending most of the remainder of the season in the press box.

With their two most recent trades, the Blues have no excuse to not make the playoffs. The team is thrilled to have both Bouwmeester and Leopold on their roster, providing plenty of depth for the team as the playoff push begins. If all goes as planned, the Blues will have Bouwmeester in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks as the Blues look for their second consecutive win.