Being an NHL general manager is a bit like being Goldilocks, particularly when you’re negotiating a contract extension. Some extensions are too long, giving the player too many years. Some extensions are too expensive, with too high an average annual value (AAV). And on rare occasion, some deals are just right, combining the perfect term and dollar value.
St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong secured defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to one of those “just right” deals when he signed him at one-year, $3.25 million. Some fans are upset with the contract, but in reality, it’s a perfect agreement for both sides.
Bouwmeester’s Divided Season
If anyone had suggested a contract extension for Bouwmeester as recently as four months ago, fans would have been livid. He had an awful start to the season, bringing him to a dreadful minus-14 as late in the season as Dec. 11.
The cause for his poor play was most likely the hip surgery he underwent late last season, the second such operation he’s had in his career. In hindsight, he likely should not have started the season on the active roster. He was limited, he looked lost, and most importantly, he looked slow. Speed has always been the foundation of Bouwmeester’s game, and without it, he was a completely different player.
But then, as quickly as he’d seemed to hit rock bottom, he started to climb out of the hole. He began looking more reliable, forming a consistent partnership with Colton Parayko. He began to play more minutes, and he stopped looking like a liability.
Bouwmeester finished the season with 78 games played. He averaged 20:44 per game, and blocked 127 shots. He even recorded 17 points (three goals, 14 assists), his highest total in the past three seasons. His renaissance got many fans talking about possibly bringing him back for another round, and apparently it convinced Armstrong, as well. The only question remaining was the price tag.
Armstrong Finds the Right Price
For the Blues’ purposes, a one-year, $3.25 million is just about perfect for a player like Bouwmeester. A one-year deal for a player of his age (he’ll be 36 before the start of next season) is ideal, as it gives the team plenty of flexibility to plan for the future. And signing a player of his caliber for just $3.25 million seems appropriate when compared with the competition.
Bouwmeester finished the season with a 3.4 defensive point share (DPS), a metric aimed at calculating a player’s contribution to his team’s place in the standings. 3.4 puts him at 73rd, which may not seem impressive on his own, but it puts him in good company. He is tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, his teammates, Joel Edmundson, and the first-overall pick in last year’s draft, Rasmus Dahlin. Edmundson signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Blues last summer, and was arguably underpaid, so Bouwmeester’s number seems right on the mark.
Concerns Linger for the Blues
While the contract is a low risk move for the Blues, concerns still linger about Bouwmeester’s long-term viability. While it is unfair to evaluate his performance using full season metrics, there are still some advanced statistics that are worrisome for St. Louis.
These metrics aren’t perfect, as no one expects Bouwmeester to contribute much offensively, particularly in the sunset of his career. But they still show that, at least at times this season, the team has performed poorly with him on the ice. Our Michael Pelts even made the argument that Bouwmeester should sit during the playoffs.
Even so, the bottom line about this contract remains true: it is the right length and the right dollar amount to make it a worthwhile risk for the Blues. Bouwmeester is a veteran player, and it’s impossible to calculate what his presence in the organization means off the ice. It may be worth bringing him back for that alone.
In the unlikely event that he returns to his first-half form next season, the Blues can cut and run from this contract without looking back. It’s not too long, it’s not too expensive, this contract is just right for both Bouwmeester and the Blues.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.