Monday, April 1, 2013

Blues finally nab Bouwmeester

Defenseman acquired for picks, pair of prospects in blockbuster

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong finally got his guy.

If Jordan Leopold was the appetizer, Jay Bouwmeester was the main course.

The Blues have coveted Jay Bouwmeester since last summer. They've been rumored to be in on the National Hockey League's current top ironman, with a need for a left-handed defenseman and a guy that can complement Alex Pietrangelo on the top defensive pairing.

Armstrong finally got his man Monday night when he swung a deal for Bouwmeester, acquiring the 10-year veteran from the Calgary Flames in exchange for minor league defenseman Mark Cundari, the rights to goaltender Reto Berra and a conditional first-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2013. If the Blues fail to make the playoffs this season, the first round pick turns into a 2014 selection and the Flames then get the Blues' fourth-round pick this summer.

(Getty Images)
The Blues acquired Jay Bouwmeester from
Calgary Monday night.
"It's taken the better part of 10 months to find the piece," Armstrong said. "It goes back through when we were looking to add a player (last off-season). Jay was one of those type of players that when you look at someone in our age group, someone that could log a lot of minutes, he's an iron man obviously playing 600-plus games. He’s a workhorse, he's everything that we had hoped to find."
Bouwmeester, 29, is the second left-handed defenseman to join the Blues in three days. The Blues acquired Jordan Leopold from Buffalo on Saturday for a pair of draft picks in 2013. He has six goals and 15 points in 33 games for the Flames this season and is the kind of player that Armstrong has been searching for to play with Pietrangelo. Both play similar minutes, with Bouwmeester averaging 25:09 per game, which ranks 13th in the NHL.

"I think Jay, Jay's style of play, is someone that we've coveted for a while," Armstrong said. "Jordan is an important piece now moving forward, but he's a player that we don't have contract rights to after the season. We do have that now with Jay Bouwmeester.

"It's just exciting to have of Pietrangelo's caliber, [Kevin] Shattenkirk's caliber (and) Bouwmeester's caliber moving forward. You couple that with the rock-steady play of Roman Polak and Barret Jackman. So I'm really excited about our group now."

The 6-foot-4, 212-pound defenseman has 300 points (71 goals) in 750 career games. He has played in 621 straight games. he's in the fourth year of a five-year, $33.4 million contract that carries a $6.68 million cap hit.

"It's a real feather in the cap of our ownership group," Armstrong said. "It's one thing to buy a team and say you want to win. It's another thing to say you want to win and back it up with your money. Adding a player of Bouwmeester's caliber and also his contract at $6.6 million, I think shows everybody in the hockey community that we're in, we believe we're in our window now. This isn’t a trade just for 15 games and a player run. This is a trade for next year and hopefully many years past that."

Armstrong and Flames GM Jay Feaster both were playing a game of tug of war today, with Armstrong firm on what he was willing to part with and Feaster jockeying for what he wanted for Bouwmeester, who had his best offensive seasons with the Florida Panthers, who selected him third overall in 2002.

Feaster reached out to Armstrong again after the Blues had acquired Leopold.

"I was talking to Jay Feaster, he was obviously focused and rightfully so on the franchise face of Jarome Iginla but when that transpired, he called after we made the Leopold deal and said, ‘Are you still interested?’ I said yes we are," Armstrong said. "Reconnected with our ownership group. They were still committed. We never really talked names before, or what he wanted, because he was never at the point of trading.

"I think Jay is looking to add first-round picks and to recalibrate his group. He has Pittsburgh’s pick, he has his own pick and now he has our pick. So it's been a good week for Jay Feaster. But for our team, giving a first-round pick and Cundari and Berra is something we could afford to let go moving forward."

The Blues, who jumped back into eighth place in the race for the Western Conference playoffs after Monday's 4-1 win at Minnesota, made it very clear that they are going for it now.

(Getty Images)
The Blues' Andy McDonald (10) will now be a teammate of Jay
Bouwmeester (4). The two were battling for a puck in a game here
from February in Calgary.
"I think it tells our team we're committed to having success in St. Louis and we're not satisfied with our current standing," Armstrong said. "We’re willing to poke, prod and do our part as management to improve the team. But ultimately, the responsibility lies with that core group of players that we haven’t touched: David Backes, David Perron, T.J. Oshie … Pietrangelo, [Patrik] Berglund, [Alexander] Steen, [Andy] McDonald. That group is still here and we've added two pieces to that group. Ultimately they have to help us get the job done."

The Blues will have nine defensemen on their roster when Bouwmeester arrives, which Armstrong said they're hopeful is by Wednesday before the team departs for their game in Chicago Thursday night. It will leave a larger number than usual on the blue line.

"We’re going to decide what we’re going to do over the next couple of days," Armstrong said. "Obviously it’s going to be uncomfortable. But if we do anything it’s going to be something that helps our team."

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