Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bouwmeester dictated landing spot, glad St. Louis was it

Defenseman expected to make debut Thursday in Chicago

ST. LOUIS -- In a similar spot as teammate Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester could essentially narrow the selections down to basically where he wanted to go if the possibility of being traded came to the forefront.

Bouwmeester, who is in the fourth year of a five-year, $33.4 million contract he signed as a free agent with Calgary in 2009, had a no-trade clause with his contract. However, he had the Blues as one of those teams on a short list (the others are unknown) of where Bouwmeester could see himself this year and for years beyond if approached about the possibility of moving.

"I know you don’t ever know for sure about anything until you actually get there and you experience it," Bouwmeester said a day after the Blues acquired the left-handed defenseman from the Flames for picks and a pair of prospects. "But I viewed (St. Louis) as a place where yeah, there's that potential for it to go beyond these next couple of years and hopefully if everything goes right, that's the way it will be.

(Getty Images)
Jay Bouwmeester has traded in his flaming Calgary 'C' for the St.
Louis Bluenote following a Monday trade. 
Realistically, you have to wait to figure it out. But that's one of the things that I said to Calgary if I was going to move. Ideally I don’t want to go somewhere where in two months or six months I’m moving again. I'd like to go somewhere where there is potential to be there longer."

So when Feaster gave Bouwmeester the news in Edmonton Monday that he had been dealt to the Blues, the blow wasn't as hard as one might be when a player gets blind-sided by such news.

Bouwmeester is now a Blue for the immediate and foreseeable future. The Blues, who had been named as a suitor for the Edmonton, Alberta native for roughly a year, got their guy to play alongside cornerstone defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

"If that's what it is, that's another attractive thing," the 29-year-old Bouwmeester said. "You look at their defense, him and (Kevin) Shattenkirk, they're both real good young guys and they're guys who can do it all. They're good on offense and good on defense, and they're right-handed shots."

Said Pietrangelo: "Obviously he's a guy with a lot of experience, a top-end NHL player, plays first-pairing minutes. A good guy to have around, contributes on both ends of the ice, so I'm sure we'll expect the same things from him here."

"It's just another good player to add to the 'D' corps," Pietrangelo added.

With the recent acquisition of Jordan Leopold from Buffalo, the Blues have fortified their defensive unit to the point that they essentially have a larger than usual group of nine.

But in Bouwmeester, who was acquired for a conditional 2013 first-round pick, a 2013 fourth-round pick, Peoria defenseman Mark Cundari and the rights to goaltender Reto Berra (a 2006 sixth-round pick), the Blues got good value for a player that is hitting the prime of his career. He's averaging 25 minutes, nine seconds of ice time this season.

"He's a minute-muncher, he's a guy that's got great mobility, he's hard to play against because he's mobile, he's got a long stick and he knows how to defend," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Bouwmeester. "I've had Jay in international play where he's been a really, really good player at high level games. He's going to be a good addition for us, a real good addition."

Bouwmeester, who has to get through immigration and working visa issues, is expected to join up with the Blues Wednesday in Chicago and make his debut Thursday night against the Blackhawks.

"They're a big team that can skate, and they’ve got some pretty talented guys," Bouwmeester said of his new teammates. "I know from playing against them, they can throw a number of lines at you. They’re just a team that is solid all the way through lineup."

He remembers a recent encounter, one in which Calgary won 3-2 March 24.

"The second period, we had no business being in the game, (but) our goalie (Miikka Kiprusoff) played unreal and kept us in it," Bouwmeester said. "They can be a pretty dominate team and I don’t think anything has changed.

"Before this (trade) happened, you sit back and look at a lot of the teams in the standings ... they have the team of anyone that can put a string together and get in (the playoffs), and with that experience from last year, do that much better in the playoffs."

Bouwmeester, a 10-year veteran and third overall pick in 2002 by Florida, comes to St. Louis with 750 career games played, including an NHL-best 621 straight that is still in tact because the deal was consummated during the Blues' 4-1 win at Minnesota.

"It was actually a pretty nice thing they did," Bouwmeester said of both the Blues and Flames keeping his ironman streak alive. "It's something you can't really explain. There's a lot of luck that goes into it.

"I haven't had any major things that have kept me out for any amount of time, just been pretty fortunate. If it ended, it's not the end of the world. I'm not really too attached to it, but it's kind of a neat thing."

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Calgary's Jay Bouwmeester (left) and the Blues' T.J. Oshie (74) will
be teammates after Bouwmeester was acquired Monday.
Bouwmeester, with 300 points (71 goals) to his resume which includes six goals and 15 points in 33 games this season, has one more season on his contract at $6.6 million ($6.68 million cap hit). His immediate objective is to help the Blues get into the postseason. Once in, anything can happen, but Bouwmeester is poised to help make it happen. He's never played in a Stanley Cup playoff game in his career.

"Nowadays you've just got to get in," Bouwmeester said. "Look at LA last year, they had a bit of a struggle throughout the year. Then they lost, what, two or three games the whole playoffs. It’s just about getting hot at the right time. I viewed St. Louis as comparable to LA. They have some big forwards and just a hard team to play against."

Which makes the quiet-natured Bouwmeester a happy camper the Blues stepped up for his services.

"You didn’t hear a whole lot," Bouwmeester said. "Things up here (in Calgary) can get a little crazy. Now the last little while, when it became a reality that I might be moving on, they were definitely a team that was pretty attractive."

* NOTES -- The Blues announced Tuesday that they have recalled goaltender Jake Allen under emergency conditions from Peoria as well as winger Adam Cracknell.

Allen, who was 8-3-0 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in two previous stints with the Blues, returns in light of Jaroslav Halak's lower-body injury near the end of the first period of Monday's win over the Wild.

Cracknell, who picked up two assists in eight games with the Blues earlier this season, has been called back up after the team placed T.J. Oshie (bruised foot) on injured-reserve retroactive to Friday. Oshie will be eligible to play Friday at home against Columbus at the earliest.

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