Plenty of NHL teams were banking on landing Ryan Suter. They figured they could offer the most money, the most hospitable environment and the best chance to win a championship — just like every other team that’s chasing a free agent. You need to believe this, otherwise you’re dead in the water.
Coming back to reality, Suter made his choice, and now you need to fill in a real a hole in the depth chart. Elite defensemen like Suter are not readily available — they rarely are to begin with — but there are defensemen that teams believe they can plug in and get similar results.
Jay Bouwmeester, while certainly not elite, is a piece that appears to be available in discussions with the Calgary Flames. A guy that was once thought untradeable due to poor showings and a hefty contract in Calgary is now on the market.
It should be noted that the Flames are not actively shopping Bouwmeester, per Roger Millions, but the scenario is being discussed nonetheless.
Teams in the ‘Jay-Bo’ discussions are players that you would expect to be involved after losing out on Ryan Suter. The Red Wings, for example, are seen as prime candidates to take a run at the Flames rearguard. With $16 million in cap space and spots on the blueline to fill (Nick Lidstrom’s spot first and foremost, no pressue bud) the Red Wings are likely players in the market for Bouwmeester.
The Nashville Predators are also looking to replace Suter himself in an effort to maintain their level of competitiveness and keep Shea Weber happy. They were steadfast in proclaiming they would go all out to sign each of their big three this year. Pekka Rinne is under contract, Shea Weber is currently a restricted free agent and Ryan Suter plays in Minnesota. Translation: things are not exactly going to plan and desperately looking for a fix. If there’s a system that could help Bouwmeester overcome his defensive deficiency, it’s Nashville, and they obviously have room against the cap.
St. Louis has been identified as a potential destination for Bouwmeester as well as they look for a defenseman to play big minutes alongside their already well off core. The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be looking for defensive depth in perpetuity behind the Seabrook-Keith tandem. Nik Hjalmarsson is the nicest piece of the rest, but he can get overextended at times and anyone who can alleviate his minutes would be a welcome addition.
It’s amazing how many of these ‘untradeable’ contracts can be moved under this current cap situation. Consider that the NHL salary cap was $56.8 million when Bouwmeester signed his five year, $6.68 million AAV contract. The difference in cap means that Bouwmeester impacts the cap three percent less than he did three seasons ago.
That three percent is another $2 million player a team can try to extract value out of, meaning that a team can have a Bouwmeester-type contract without sacrificing additional depth elsewhere to the degree they used to.
He does have a no-trade clause but on a Flames team with eight defensemen under contract — five of which have some sort of no-movement clause — Bouwmeester appears to be the odd man out in Calgary.
He may not be Ryan Suter, but Jay Bouwmeester may very well take his theoretical spot on someone’s roster soon.