Jay Bouwmeester

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Pietrangelo and beyond: Faulk’s impact on Blues’ salary cap future

It wasn’t all that surprising that the Carolina Hurricanes traded Justin Faulk, but it absolutely was a little stunning that the St. Louis Blues ended up being the winner of that sweepstakes on Tuesday.

In fact, Faulk seemed surprised, too, so it’s not that off base.

Maybe we should have seen this coming, as the Blues were very quiet this summer, and made a big impact last year by landing Ryan O'Reilly. Either way, acquiring Faulk amplified a question people already had: what about Alex Pietrangelo?

When Faulk’s contract extension kicks during the 2020-21 season, it will carry a $6.5 million AAV. It’s a strangely fitting mark, as Pietrangelo carries a $6.5M cap hit for 2019-20, the final year of his current deal.

One cannot help but wonder if the Blues view Faulk as a replacement for Pietrangelo, right down to both being right-handed defensemen who can run a power play.

This is all fair to ask, as Pietrangelo is almost certain to make a significant raise from $6.5M per year. Without a Norris Trophy to his name, Pietrangelo might not command Drew Doughty money of $11M, but who knows? Demand figures to be high for Pietrangelo either way, even though he’ll turn 30 on Jan. 18.

Pietrangelo’s future is the biggest question that springs from the trade-plus-extension for Faulk, but it’s not the only interesting conundrum for the Blues. Let’s consider some of the questions ahead, including how Pietrangelo might fit in.

After 2019-20

Again, Pietrangelo is the headliner, but he’s not the only relevant expiring contract.

Cap Friendly estimates the Blues’ spending at about $65.6M with 16 roster spots covered for 2020-21. If the salary cap ceiling stays at $81.5M, the Blues would have about $16M to work with.

Rob Thomas and Jordan Kyrou could easily fill roster spots on their entry-level deals, which expire after 2020-21.

The Blues could actually do some juggling to keep Pietrangelo, especially if the ceiling goes up. They’d need to make a painful choice or two, possibly letting Schenn walk, but it’s not outside the realm of reason, especially if Pietrangelo takes a little less than his highest market value.

There are also some two-year deals the Blues could try to get out of …

After 2020-21

  • Both of their goalies only have two years left on their current contracts, with Jordan Binnington, 26, costing $4.4M and Jake Allen, 29, at $4.35M. It was a little surprising that the Blues didn’t trade Allen during this offseason, but if they can unload him sometime between now and next offseason, that could open up crucial space for Pietrangelo and/or Schenn. This current arrangement does provide some buffer if Binnington falters after his breakthrough, but the Blues likely don’t want to spend this much on a backup if that’s Allen’s fate.
  • Alexander Steen, 35, carries a heavy $5.75M. His salary is $5.5M in 2019-20, and then drops to $3.5M; maybe that would make Steen palatable for a cap-bribery trade to a team like the Ottawa Senators?
  • Tyler Bozak, 33, is expendable at $5M per year.
  • Jaden Schwartz, 27, could get a raise from $5.35M.

As you can see, there are some situations where the Blues might be able to free up some breathing room, particularly if they can convince someone to absorb Steen’s cap hit (or even a portion of it) for 2020-21.

Between Bozak, David Perron ($4M per year through 2021-22), and other mid-level players, St. Louis could conceivably cut out some inessentials.

This also serves as a reminder that teams should remain careful about giving depth players bigger commitments. If Oskar Sundqvist ($2.75M through 2022-23) indirectly costs the Blues a better player, that could sting.

***

It won’t be easy for the Blues to keep Pietrangelo, as Faulk could create an imbalance with Colton Parayko also being a prominent right-handed defenseman. While Faulk could give the Blues a relevant short-term boost, the long-term implications are messy.

That said, as you can see from the exercise above, there are ways that Blues GM Doug Armstrong can wiggle out of the toughest losses. That would mean waving goodbye to a surplus player or two, maybe even someone very useful like Schenn, but it’s possible.

Beyond seeing the Blues try to repeat, it will also be fascinating to see if they can keep the band together — or at least the virtuoso performers. Check out the Blues’ Cap Friendly page if you want to dig even deeper.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup

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BOSTON — The 1,260th NHL game of Jay Bouwmeester’s 17-year career was the sweetest. The 35-year-old defenseman finally got his opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup after the St. Louis Blues topped the Boston Bruins in Game 7.

The journey to be able to call himself a Stanley Cup champion was a long one. It wasn’t until his 10th year, when he was traded from the Calgary Flames to the Blues at the 2013 trade deadline, that he finally got to experience playoff hockey. It was a move that general manager Doug Armstrong thought would pay off sooner than it did.

“We had some really good teams back then and couldn’t get over the hump,” he said. “We brought Jay in because we thought he could help us win a championship.”

But the Blues didn’t come close in his first three seasons in St. Louis. Three disappointing first-round exits, all while Bouwmeester, the No. 3 overall pick in 2002, found success as a gold medal winner with Canada at the 2014 Olympics. The next few seasons, however, would see a further decline in his production.

A hip injury would end his 2017-18 season, which only saw him play 35 games. Surgery would cause him to have an up-and-down 2018-19 campaign, and though he played 78 games, he found himself a healthy scratch. But Bouwmeester never gave up hope he would be able to come back and re-find his game.

“Last year was a tough year for me and then this year at the start I just wasn’t quite right yet and went through some tough times, and our team went through some tough times,” Bouwmeester said during the Blues’ on-ice celebrations Wednesday night at TD Garden. “I knew if I could get healthy I’d get back playing the way that I can. Like a lot of guys, we persevered.”

[RELATED: Blues win first Stanley Cup]

The old Bouwmeester was back in the playoffs for the Blues. He assisted on seven goals and averaged 23:30 a night during the postseason. In Game 7, he played more minutes than any player on the ice — 28:34 — and fired the puck on net that Ryan O’Reilly deflected for the opening goal of the game.

After the game, fellow Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo made sure that Bouwmeester was the first one after him to hoist the Cup.

“It was awesome. I’ve waited a long time,” Bouwmeester said. “Pretty honored that he gave it to me. Everyone contributes and everyone gets it, so it doesn’t matter who gets it first or second or whatever.”

There were a lot of reasons the Blues wanted to win the Cup, Bouwmeester was certainly near the top of the list for his teammates.

“For a guy like that, he’s been in the league a long time,” said Bouwmeester’s defense partner, Colton Parayko. “When Jay talks in the room, everyone listens. You know he means it and that’s what he was doing throughout this Final. He was an absolute force for us. … I’m so proud of him. He’s such a great player.”

There will be players on both the Blues and Bruins who never get this far again in their careers. There might have been a time for Bouwmeester when he wondered if he’d ever get the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. After a long, arduous road, he finally got his chance and it worked out.

“Thank God it’s over. It’s hard,” said Bouwmeester. “You’re so excited. You work so long for this. This team’s been through so much, you’re just happy for all the guys on the team and your family. It will sink in in a couple of days.”

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
Video: Blues hoist Stanley Cup
Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy
Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle
Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Stanley Cup Final: Stunning numbers for Blues, Bruins

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Throughout the season we have been taking an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the NHL.

Today, we take a look at some stunning numbers for the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins as they enter the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. 

This week’s numbers include Jaden Schwartz‘s incredible postseason run and the Bruins’ historic power play performance. 

Boston’s power play is scoring at an all-time great level

The Bruins had an outstanding power play during the regular season with potentially critical flaw — they kept giving up shorthanded goals at an alarming rate. Through the first three rounds of the playoffs that unit has continued to excel and has also cut down on the shorthanded goal problem, allowing just one in their first 17 playoff games.

The important number here, though, is 34 percent. That is the success rate for the Bruins through the first three rounds of the playoffs and puts them in some truly elite company. The NHL has power play data tracked as far back as the 1933-34 season and among teams that have played in at least 10 playoff games in a single postseason, only three teams have converted at a higher rate: The 1980-81 New York Islanders, the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers, and the 2017-18 Bruins. If you dig deeper and limit it to teams that have played in at least 15 playoff games, that Islanders team (37 percent) is the only one with a better power play and the only other one to exceed the 30 percent mark. It is an interesting contract for the Bruins when compared to the 2010-11 championship team that won the Stanley Cup despite an almost impossibly bad power play that converted on just 11.4 percent of its chances, one of the worst ever marks for a team with at least 15 playoff games.

Leading the way for the Bruins power play this postseason is Patrice Bergeron who enters this series having already scored a league-leading six power play goals. Before this season he had scored just seven power play goals in the playoffs in 112 career postseason games.

Tale of two seasons for Jaden Schwartz

With his 12 goals in the playoffs, a performance that has made him a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Schwartz has already eclipsed his total from the regular season (11 goals). According to the NHL, he is just the third player in NHL history to score at least 10 goals during the regular season and exceed that total in the playoffs following that season. The other two were Marian Gaborik during the 2013-14 season (11 regular season goals and 14 playoff goals) and Claude Lemieux during the 1996-97 season (11 regular season goals and 13 playoff goals). As the NHL noted, Lemieux (45 games) and Gaborik (41 games) both player significantly fewer regular season games than Schwartz’s 69 games.

Former Washington Capitals forward John Druce nearly made this list after scoring eight goals during the 1988-89 season (in 45 games) then following it up with 14 goals in 15 playoff games, a franchise record that stood until Alex Ovechkin broke it this past season on their way to a Stanley Cup win.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Another close matchup in the Stanley Cup Final

The Blues and Bruins have been two of the best teams in the NHL since January 1, nearly mirroring each other in their overall performances over the second half as the table below illustrates.

(All data via Natural Stat Trick.)

Their overall regular season place in the standings were also extremely close.

According to the NHL, this is the fifth time since 2014 the two Stanley Cup Finalists were separated by eight points or less in the standings, with the 2017 matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators being the one exception during that stretch.

Even with the slim gap between the two teams, the NHL also notes that the Blues are just the 10th team to ever make the Stanley Cup Final after ranking 12th or lower in the overall league standings during the regular season and the sixth since 2006. The biggest reason they finished so low in the standings, of course, is their slow start that was driven mostly by their problem spot in net.

Jay Bouwmeester‘s long wait

The Blues defender will be playing in his first ever Stanley Cup Final game on Monday night. He will be making his first ever appearance in the series after playing in 1,184 regular season games. Only seven player have waited longer.

Tuukka Rask chasing history

Rask has been the star of the playoffs for the Bruins and has emerged as the Conn Smythe favorite. He enters the series with a .942 percentage and is one of just five goals in league history to have a save percentage of .940 or better through his first 17 games in a single postseason. He is also just three wins away from tying Gerry Cheevers for first place on the Bruins’ all-time postseason wins list with 50. If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup (and assuming Rask gets the win in all four games) he would take over the franchise lead.

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
• Who has the better forwards?
• Who has the better defensemen?
• Who has the better goaltending?
• Who has the better special teams?

• X-factors
• PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites
• Roundtable: Secondary scoring, underrated players
• How the Blues were built
• How the Bruins were built
• Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Playoff Buzzer: Great Sharks-Blues Game 3 ends with missed OT call

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Blues defenseman Vince Dunn was injured midway through the first period when he was struck in the mouth by the puck and he couldn’t return.

San Jose had a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes and later led by 3-1, but the Blues rallied to a 4-3 lead that they took into the third period.

The Sharks battled back to tie it with just 1:01 remaining in regulation time then Erik Karlsson scored the game-winner due to a missed call.

San Jose Sharks 5, St. Louis Blues 4 (OT) (Sharks lead 2-1)

While the game was ultimately defined by a controversial goal, this was otherwise an excellent, back-and-forth contest. The Sharks took an early 2-0 lead thanks to Erik Karlsson’s first goal of the 2019 playoffs and Joe Thornton taking advantage of a rebound. That early deficit, coupled with Vince Dunn leaving the game after being struck by the puck made it entirely possible that this could have been a blowout win for the Sharks. Instead, the Blues battled back. They scored four goals in the second period, including back-to-back markers by David Perron in the span of just 2:39 minutes to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead. The Blues came so close to carrying that lead to the finish line and almost won the contest on an empty netter that instead hit the post. With just 1:01 remaining, Logan Couture capitalized on a rebound in front of the net to tie the game. Erik Karlsson went on to score the overtime winner at 5:23, but not before Timo Meier made a hand pass that was missed by the referees.

Three Stars

1. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks. So Karlsson’s second goal was obviously marred in controversy, but that doesn’t change the fact that he had an amazing game. He still scored twice while logging an incredible 27:51 minutes. The Sharks acquired Karlsson before the start of the season in the hopes that he might be the missing piece needed to push them to a championship. He’s had to battle injury and probably is playing hurt now, but he’s still managed to be a major factor.

2. David Perron, St. Louis Blues. The second period started with a flurry of goals that left the Blues down 3-2. The game settled for a while after that until Perron got a wrister up and past Martin Jones at 16:03 of the second frame. With the contest tied, Perron blasted a shot just 2:39 minutes later to put the Blues up 4-3.

3. Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues. With Vince Dunn out from the middle of the first period onward, the rest of the Blues’ defensemen had to step up. Not only did Parayko log 29:49 minutes, but he also contributed three assists. That came after he was held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the Western Conference Final.

Highlights of the Night
Joe Thornton had a great game and both of his goals were in part thanks to him being in the right place at the right time. That’s not to suggest that they weren’t high-skill goals though. Thornton did an amazing job both creating opportunities and capitalizing on them, as you can see with his second goal of the game.

The missed call
Of course, this is the moment most will remember from the game. Erik Karlsson scored after Timo Meier made a hand pass. It was a missed call, but it couldn’t be reviewed, so that was the game. Needless to say that the Blues and their fans were understandably very upset.

That said, Blues coach Craig Berube declined to comment on the issue after the game.

Factoids

  • Logan Couture already has 14 goals in 17 games. His latest marker tied the Sharks’ franchise record for most goals in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • With Erik Karlsson’s two-goal effort, the Sharks now have three different defensemen who have had multi-goal games in the 2019 playoffs. The only other team to match that feat were the 1982-83 Boston Bruins. [StatsCentre]
  • Due to Dunn’s injury, St. Louis had three different defensemen record at least 27 minutes of ice time. They were: Jay Bouwmeester (27:51), Colton Parayko (29:49), and Alex Pietrangelo (31:57).
  • The Blues scored their most goals in a single playoff period (four) since the 2000 Conference Quarterfinals. [NHL PR]

Thursday’s Schedule

Game 3: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Bishop, Stars edge out Blues in critical Game 5

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The St. Louis Blues certainly didn’t make life easy for Dallas on Friday, but the Stars were prepared. Ben Bishop out dueled Jordan Binnington to lead Dallas to a 2-1 victory in Game 5, putting the Stars up 3-2 in the series.

Dallas gained an edge early when Tyler Seguin set up Jason Spezza, who smashed the puck past Binnington. Spezza’s glory years might be behind him, but he’s been a huge factor in this series with three goals already.

Beyond that goal the first period was fairly even, but Dallas nevertheless went into the intermission with the lead.

The edge grew to 2-0 at 6:13 of the second period when Esa Lindell‘s backhander hit Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester in the leg on its way to the net. Lindell had 24 career goals and none in the playoffs prior to that marker, but it proved to be the game-winner.

With the game slipping out of their reach, the Blues significantly altered their lines and it seemed to help.

St. Louis got some life when Jaden Schwartz capitalized on Bishop’s mishandling of the puck to end the Stars goaltender’s shutout bid at 8:26 of the third frame. Jamie Benn was charged with a hooking penalty just 21 seconds later to give the Blues a critical power play, but Dallas killed it off.

In the end, St. Louis was 0-for-4 on the power play Friday night, which was a key to Dallas’ win. Bishop was also critical. Even though he looked bad on the Schwartz goal, Bishop still stopped 38 of 39 shots. St. Louis out shot Dallas 15-5 in the third period in a desperate, but ultimately futile attempt to alter the course of this game.

As for the fact that the Blues did look better in the third, while that’s noteworthy, it means a little less given that the Blues also had a strong third in their 4-2 loss to Dallas in Game 4. That didn’t seem to provide them with any momentum leading into Game 5 and the same might prove true for Game 6.

St. Louis’ back is against the wall now. Either they bounce back in Game 6 or their season is done.

Blues-Stars Game 6 from American Airlines Center will be Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.