After stops in Florida and Calgary, Jay Bouwmeester seems like he has found a home in St. Louis.
The 2002 third overall pick spent six seasons with the Panthers, registering 53 goals, 150 assists and 203 points in that time.
Bouwmeester’s absence from the postseason continued during his three-plus years in Calgary, where his point totals saw a slight drop off. In 279 games played, the Flames’ top defender posted 18 goals, 79 assists and 97 points.
The most staggering number from Bouwmeester’s tenure with both teams was that he had a career minus-65 in his career.
At the 2013 trade deadline, the then 29-year old defenseman still hadn’t appeared in the playoffs and he even carried a $6.60 million cap hit. Bouwmeester’s reputation had plummeted and the notion of acquiring him made fans scoff at the idea.
The St. Louis Blues were willing to answer the critics.
Just before the deadline, the Blues sent defenseman Mark Cundari, goaltender Reto Barra and their 2013 first-round pick to Calgary to acquire Bouwmeester. The trade brought the Blues a top left-handed defenseman that the club had been seeking all season long.
The rest was history. Bouwmeester stepped in on the top line with Alex Pietrangelo and the two formed arguably the best pairing in the NHL. In fact, the pairing featured the only defensemen on the roster to not post a negative plus/minus rating in the six-game loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 Western quarterfinals.
Bouwmeester was awarded with a five-year, $27 million extension over the summer. The contract begins at the end of this season.
“When I got traded there, it was a situation that hopefully it would be beyond the remainder of the contract,” Bouwmeester told Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in August. “When we started talking, it was good, it was exciting. When I got there, it seemed like a good fit, a good spot and it’s somewhere that I think I want to be for a while.”
The club followed up the signing with the return of linemate Pietrangelo, who was a training camp holdout for the first two days. Together, the two will likely be the top minute eaters for St. Louis throughout the season.
“They play a lot of the game, almost half the game sometimes,” Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said about the pairing in May. “You know that they’re a big part of the team. That pair is also a good skating pair and they’re always up in the play, getting involved.”
For Bouwmeester, his speed and long reach have been more apparent than ever on the Blues’ stacked defense. Through the first two games of 2013-14, he ranks just behind Pietrangelo for the team lead with 22:42 of average ice time.
“We view him as a two-way player, not as an offensive player that can play two-way,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong told NHL.com in September. “We view him as a really good two-way player, a very good defender, a very good stick. I still think he can be a 35-point player, which is more than ample for what we need.”
Joining a playoff team is a goal that Bouwmeester, now 30, achieved last season. His sights can now be set a bit higher.
And the franchise hopes that he will be a leader when it takes the next step.
I am a former NHL media member and reporter for the St. Louis Blues, working for various media outlets. Currently, I am an NHL News Writer and Editor for The Hockey Writers. I live in St. Louis and work as a freelance copywriter in numerous industries.