After years of refusing to rebuild an underachieving hockey team, the Calgary Flames took a second giant step into an unknown future Monday night, by trading away defenceman Jay Bouwmeester to the St. Louis Blues for a first-round draft choice, plus two prospects.
The draft choice is lottery-protected, meaning if St. Louis misses the playoffs, Calgary gets the Blues’ 2014 first-rounder. If the Blues make the playoffs, then Calgary gets the pick in the upcoming draft.
In Bouwmeester, the Blues pick up a minute-munching defenceman with great speed that should get along nicely with coach Ken Hitchcock, since both are Edmonton natives. St. Louis wanted a defenceman who could play the left side and along with Jordan Leopold, acquired last week from the Buffalo Sabres, now boast a formidable top-four that also includes Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.
The complication in making the deal, for Flames general manager Jay Feaster, was the $6.68-million (all currency U.S.) owed Bouwmeester on next year’s contract, which disqualified many other possible suitors from bidding for his services. Sources indicated that only the Detroit Red Wings had the cap space and the interest to inquire after Bouwmeester.
Last week, the Flames traded their captain, Jarome Iginla, to the Pittsburgh Penguins, also for a first-rounder and two prospects.
Assuming the Blues make the playoffs, Calgary would now have three first-round picks in what is considered to be a deep and strong draft.
The Flames also get almost $14-million in salary-cap relief by moving their two highest-paid players, Iginla, who earns $7-million, and Bouwmeester.
In addition to the first round-pick, the Flames also get two prospects from the Blues, defenceman Mark Cundari and goaltender Reto Berra. With Berra, who is currently playing in Switzerland, and Kari Ramo, who is playing in Russia, the Flames believe they have their goaltenders of the future in the organization – which could become pivotal if their holdover No. 1 Miikka Kiprusoff is dealt at the deadline.
The Flames have given the Toronto Maple Leafs permission to talk to Kiprusoff and his agent to see if he would consider a trade.
Also on the move Monday: former Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr, a pending unrestricted free agent, was reunited with his former coach, Darryl Sutter, with the Los Angeles Kings. In exchange for Regehr, the Kings surrendered two second-round picks to the Buffalo Sabres.
Regehr played for Sutter on the 2004 Flames team that advanced to the Stanley Cup final but lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Kings have been searching for a physical defenceman all season long, after two stalwarts from last year’s championship team, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, have been unavailable because of injuries. Greene is expected back in time for the playoffs, but the Kings have been operating on the assumption that Mitchell will not.
By acquiring Regehr, the Kings believe they can play Drew Doughty in more of an offensive role over the final third of the season. Regehr isn’t considered especially fleet of foot any more, but the move to the Western Conference, with its preponderance of big centres may help him get his game back on track.