After being signed to take over the #1 defenseman role in Calgary in the summer of 2009, Jay Bouwmeester found himself wearing the Bluenote at the trade deadline last season. In the fourth year of a five-year, $33.4 million contract, Bouwmeester took over the highest paid player position on the Blues roster the minute he stepped foot in the Gateway City.
The deal that Bouwmeester signed on Thursday sees an average $1.24 million pay decrease per season, making his contract much more manageable with the salary cap. When the contract term ends, Bouwmeester will be nearly 35 years old.
Actual salary paid instantly sees an improvement as well. Here is the contract breakdown as reported by Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com:
2014-15: $5 million
2015-16: $5.6 million
2016-17: $5.6 million
2017-18: $5.4 million
2018-19: $5.4 million
The deal, which includes a full no-trade clause, puts Bouwmeester on the salary level with such NHL defensemen as Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and James Wisniewski.
Bouwmeester spent his first 20 games with the Blues (regular season and playoffs) on the top pairing with Alex Pietrangelo. The two were the cornerstones of one of the league’s best defenses through the end of the season.
How does this effect the contract negotiations with the 23-year old, much coveted defenseman?
Currently, Pietrangelo is the only RFA remaining on the Blues’ roster. He is coming off an entry-level deal and expects his first big payout from the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2008.
This summer, Pietrangelo has waited out other top RFAs on the Blues roster. Fellow defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, forwards Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund and goaltender Jake Allen have all been locked up since the start of the off-season.
Now, the Blues have locked up a defenseman that sits in the #2 or 3 spot on the depth chart. Bouwmeester did take a paycut, but still sees himself earning a paycheck that is higher than anyone else on the Blues’ roster. Not that it isn’t deserved; it just proves that, especially on a team with a defense-first mentality, the team’s top defender will be seeing more than Bouwmeester’s $5.4 million cap-hit.
Bouwmeester has enjoyed more success than Pietrangelo in his career, but he is also seven years older. Pietrangelo is one of the league’s up-and-coming defensemen. Much like the Drew Doughty saga that occurred in Los Angeles in 2011, Pietrangelo will be looking for a long term with a high pricetag to compensate for the workload he faces on a nightly basis.
[See related: Bouwmeester's Contract Puts Blues in a Bind]
Bouwmeester’s five years and annual cap-hit can be used against the Blues in salary discussions with Pietrangelo. His agent will make it a point to get his client a better contract than Bouwmeester.
Let’s not kid ourselves, folks. Saying that the Blues have not been in constant discussion with Pietrangelo about a new contract is just ignorant. Not too much has been leaked out since GM Doug Armstrong guaranteed an offer-sheet match in May, but it is silly to think that this has not been a priority since the Blues were ousted from the playoffs earlier this summer.
While Bouwmeester’s contract will play a part in Pietrangelo’s negotiations, both sides have an idea for what they would be willing to settle.
For example, Pietrangelo and his agent may be asking for a contract that sees $7 million annually, whereas the Blues have said that they would be willing to go as high as $5.2 million (again, this is hypothetical). Bouwmeester’s $5.4 million annual salary would play little part in negotiations if this were the scenario.
The Blues may have signed Bouwmeester with full intention of paying Pietrangelo more. If that is the case, bringing Bouwmeester’s contract discussions into the bargaining room would be a moot point.
Another valid reason for the timing of Bouwmeester’s contract announcement could be that the Blues are trying to prove to Pietrangelo that the team is being built around him. A Pietrangelo – Bouwmeester pairing gives you the feeling of the Pronger – MacInnis dream matchup from the early 2000s. If Pietrangelo does get a long-term, he would have Bouwmeester by his side for at least the next five seasons.
The team is taking shape. Once Pietrangelo is thrown back into the mix, the Blues will bolster one of the league’s top defenses in the NHL.
It will be up to Pietrangelo to lead that force.