The St. Louis Blues traded two players and a first-round pick for Jay Bouwmeester, it wasn’t clear if this would be a high-priced one-season-and-change rental or if the Blues intended on having Bouwmeester join them long term.
And if it was Option B … then at what cost, considering he has one more year on his contract with a $6.68 million cap hit.
On Thursday, the answer arrived: Bouwmeester agreed to a five-year, $27 million ($5.4 AAV) extension, which will begin in the 2014-15 season. (Hey, just like Seattle!)
So what does this money and term mean for the Blues going forward, and specifically for the still-unsigned Alex Pietrangelo?
First off, let’s state the obvious: Bouwmeester’s chemistry with Pietrangelo is a primary reason why he’s receiving this contract.
Despite not exactly conforming to the bruiser/skater template that fits so many defensive pairings, they proved to be great on both ends of the rink last season as a pair of puck-movers. Frankly, Bouwmeester helped Pietrangelo recapture his game after he struggled a bit during the middle part of the season. (Well, that’s a relative term; let’s just say he didn’t have Norris Trophy form.)
GM Doug Armstrong saw enough to tender the contract, according to STLToday.com:
The Blues don’t believe they’re making this move based on a small sample size. After the trade, Bouwmeester played only 14 regular-season games last season, posting one goal and six assists. Making his first appearance in the NHL playoffs, he had one assist in six games.
“It’s the body of work,” Armstrong said. “(Blues coach Ken Hitchcock) and I have both had the opportunity work with Jay for Team Canada. He’s a minute-munching 6-foot-3 guy that plays 25-plus minutes a night. Those don’t fall off trees.
“His offensive numbers in Calgary weren’t what they were in Florida. But I think that he should be a 40-point plus player for us. His history shows that he’s an 82-game player. There’s not a lot of concern when you talk about Jay Bouwmeester.”
Especially at a $5.4 million cap hit, which cures his of “Chris Drury Disease” and puts his salary in line with someone like Keith Yandle rather than Zdeno Chara.
But what about Pietrangelo, a restricted free agent still seeking a contract?
Kevin Shattenkirk signed for a $4.25 million cap hit and Bouwmeester signed for a $5.4 million hit. Is that the range? Does Pietrangelo fall somewhere in the middle? Or is he seeking $7 million a year, which was the Sports Illustrated estimate?
Armstrong doesn’t seem to have a desire to go eight years with a player a new deal, or at least his history of mid-range contracts with the Blues tells us that.
Here’s where things get a little nervous: Don Meehan. He reps Pietrangelo. He also reps P.K. Subban, who missed time with the Montreal Canadiens last year due to his RFA contract stalemate. Or course, it worked out pretty OK for Subban.
Brien Rea of Inside STL sees another potential issue, this one with the Blues’ payroll:
So assuming the Blues sign Alex Pietrangelo, here is another developing situation. Roughly $15-$16 million will be tied up in the team's top three defensemen -- Pietrangelo, Bouwmeester, and Shattenkirk. Based on the team's payroll spending the last two years of about $52 and $54 million, plus this current offseason sitting at $55 million, the Blues' budget projects about 25% of their total payroll each of the next few seasons would be tied up in their three defensive leaders.
Committing a chunk of your payroll like that causes trouble maintaining the depth needed for a playoff run.
However, if you're going to push the majority of your budget into a select group of players it might as well be on the back end because most coaches will tell you championship teams are built from the net out.
That’s true, and it will also allow the Blues to continue to do goaltending on the (relative) cheap. But the Blues were 17th in goals-per-game last season; should that amount of payroll be wrapped up in the blue line?
Considering all three defensemen contribute greatly offensively: yes. Get Pietrangelo done.