From the day that the Blues acquired Jay Bouwmeester in a trade last April, general manager Doug Armstrong openly discussed the defenseman as a part of the team’s long-range plans, not an asset that the club might soon be seeking a return on.
On Thursday, the Blues followed through on that commitment, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $27 million contract extension for Bouwmeester. He still has one season left on his current contract — which will pay him $6.6 million in 2013-14 — and then he’ll begin a new deal that will pay him $5.4 million per year through 2018-19.
So the Blues now have Bouwmeester, who wouldn’t have become an unrestricted free agent until July 2014, locked up for six seasons.
“(The team) mentioned something at the end of the year that at some point over the summer they’d be in touch, throw things around and see where everyone’s at,” Bouwmeester said. “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 want to be for a while.”
The Blues sent a strong signal at last season’s trade deadline that they envisioned Bouwmeester being with the organization beyond the 2013-14 season. They sent a first-round draft pick, along with minor-league defenseman Mark Cundari and goalie prospect Reto Berra, to the Flames in exchange for the veteran defenseman.
“We certainly gave up a major piece — a first-round pick and two other prospects — to get him,” Armstrong said. “We were content on doing that to try and have a really good push to last season ... and knowing we’d have a pretty good opportunity to try to (re-sign) him.
“It was exciting when I talked to Jay and his representation that they felt this was a team that was on the rise and a team that he wanted to be part of. We’re entering a new phase in our organization with this current group. Now we’re a place we’re good players want to be.”
Bouwmeester said that the reason is because the talent is already here.
“It seems like that they’ve got pretty much everyone signed now through at least the next couple of years,” he said. “You’ve got that nucleus of guys that probably aren’t going anywhere ... The fact that everyone is going to be back, and you add some guys, there’s some optimism going forward.”
Bouwmeester was aware that the Blues wanted to make him part of that nucleus, but wasn’t sure how long the club had in mind. He was impressed when Armstrong proposed adding five years to his existing deal.
“The first offer that was talked about was for that length,” Bouwmeester said. “For them to show that interest and I guess have faith in me for that period of time, as a player, you view that as a real positive thing.”
Bouwmeester has played in 764 regular-season games, but he doesn’t turn 30 until September. He will be 36 when his new contract expires.
“Forwards, I deem their prime years from 24, 25-32 and defensemen from 27-34, so I think he’s going to be able to play through his prime during this term,” Armstrong said.
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.”
He was never a rental. He was always part of the plan moving forward.
“I got that feeling after the trade, where it was kind of mutual,” Bouwmeester said. “Overall, I think everyone had the general idea that we wanted to get something done. It’s nice when both parties feel that way.”