The St. Louis Blues have signed a defenseman to a new contract. No, this isn't the news you were expecting about Alex Pietrangelo. Instead, the Blues signed Jay Bouwmeester to a new five-year extension which will keep him with the club through 2018-19.
Bouwmeester still has one year left on his old five-year, $33.4 million deal. He will earn $6.6 million in 2013-14 and will carry a cap hit of $6.68 million before carrying an average cap hit of $5.4 million a season beginning in 2014-15.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the news that the Blues and Pietrangelo have reached a new deal. Those talks appear to be progressing extremely slowly. Meanwhile, the Blues decided to make sure Bouwmeester was in their long-term plans. After appearing in just 14 regular season games with the Blues, the team decided to keep him in their ranks through 2018-19.
It's important to separate the Pietrangelo situation from the Bouwmeester deal. Your initial reaction might be to assume that the Blues only locked up Bouwmeester now because they do not believe they can sign Pietrangelo. It's a reasonable thought to have, but it's not factual. Bouwmeester's deal doesn't begin until 2014-15. The salary cap situation for 2013-14 is unchanged. The Blues still have plenty of room to squeeze in Pietrangelo and they'll have an even easier time once the salary cap is raised in the coming year or two.
Shifting back to Bouwmeester, the Blues have locked up a quality left-handed defenseman for the next several years. This has constantly been an area of weakness for the Blues, so it's nice to see a strong presence on that side. If you're worried about the fact the Blues gave Bouwmeester a deal after just 14 regular season games, don't be. He has appeared in 764 games and is as reliable as they come.
Overall, I think this is a solid signing by the Blues. If Bouwmeester would have tested free agency after his current contract expired, it's safe to assume he would have been given an even larger offer than the one the Blues just gave. When the cap goes up, salaries do too. Bouwmeester could have fetched a larger deal on the open market. Along the same line of thinking, the Blues would have had to resort to filling the left side with a different option while only saving a million or two a year. Would that be worth it? Probably not.
With Bouwmeester signed to a new deal and Pietrangelo hopefully signing a deal in the near future (knock on wood), can we all just agree that the Blues have one stacked defense?
I'll admit, when I first heard the news, I was tepid to mildly positive about it. However, upon more mature consideration, I think we may just wind up looking back on this as another Army Special. It's primarily your last point, Dave, that brought me around - if the Blues had left this to next year, with the cap increasing, and the free agent frenzy in full swing as it always seems to be, regardless of the caliber of free agents available, the price was likely to be significantly higher. Maybe even equal to his current deal, which folks have questioned pretty much since it was handed out.
Here's an intriguing thought: How much does this move improve Pietrangelo's stance on sticking with the Blues long term? (Yes, yes, I know, he's an RFA, but let's set that aside for a moment.) The team has essentially just locked up the man who's to be Petro's partner for the next half-decade and change, and there's always something to be said for stability.
@miendiem I think the fact Petro knows exactly who he'd likely be paired with should at least help negotiations a little. I'd imagine it wouldn't be too fun assuming the team will bring in another spare part to skate on the left side. I'd also imagine skating with a very intelligent and strong skater in Bouwmeester has to be appealing.
As for the first part of your reply, I was the same way. I was a bit taken back by the news at first. It definitely wasn't the news I was expecting. As is, Bouwmeester is paid too much. His new deal on the other hand I think is right on the nose. Sure, I do have some concerns about his increasing age, but I think that with the cap rising - perhaps significantly in the near future - Bouwmeester's deal might even look cheap compared to the deals we may see in 2014-15 and 2015-16.