Why The Oilers Should Not Pursue Jay Bouwmeester

Bouwmeester

This is Jay Bouwmeester, one of thirty number one NHL defensemen. His exact value is a point of debate in Robin’s post below, but it seems fairly safe to say that he’s in the top-half of those thirty players. Some would even argue that he’s a top-five defenseman.

Regardless, I think he’s a luxury the Oilers can’t afford; a target created by a fanbase which (like all fanbases) loves the idea of bringing an elite NHL’er to Edmonton. Personally, I don’t think the Oilers should even bother pursuing him unless it’s clear that playing for the Oilers is a top priority for Bouwmeester. Now, before a lynch mob gathers up their pitchforks and assembles in the comments section, let me explain, because I think there are a number of very good reasons for this mindset.

1. Supply and Demand

How many NHL teams would like to get their hands on Bouwmeester? Let’s assume that he’s the fifteenth-best defenseman in the league, even though he’s almost certainly better than that. This means that at least fifteen teams out there would view him as an upgrade over what they already have. There’s going to be a bidding war for his services; there really aren’t a lot of high-end defensemen out there, and salary cap or no Bouwmeester’s going to be in high demand. In other words, a lot of teams are going to spend their first day of free agency focused on a target they won’t end up acquiring while other players are taken off the market. Plus, whoever does grab him will be spending a pile of money, which brings me to my second point:

2. Cap Space

The Oilers don’t have it. They were close enough to the cap all season long, and they’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8 million to play with next year. With that money they need to re-sign Denis Grebeshkov, address their lack of a number one goaltender and bring back a bunch of restricted free agents on new contracts. It’s going to be tight enough as it is, and the long-term picture isn’t any brighter. Even assuming the Oilers were to move one of their higher salaries out of town (Visnovsky or Souray) they’ll be taking on more and at this point every dollar matters. Visnovsky and Souray are a nice bridge to my third point:

3. Need

Don’t get me wrong: Jay Bouwmeester is a fantastic addition to any hockey club. When looking at the Oilers though, the defense isn’t a weak point. The top-four of Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebshkov is one of the best puck-moving units in the league and puck-moving defensemen of that calibre aren’t readily available. The Oilers do, however, have a host of problems; I’d contend that keeping the puck out of the net is a major issue but other wish lists have different priorities.

Obviously there’s a wide range of opinion among Oiler fans about how to fix the team. However, the one point of consensus that I’ve heard again and again is that the top-four is the strength of this team, and I don’t think there’s an argument to be made otherwise. Their numbers:

  • Sheldon Souray: 81GP – 23G – 30A – 53PTS, +1
  • Tom Gilbert: 82GP – 5G – 40A – 45PTS, +6
  • Denis Grebeshkov: 72GP – 7G – 32A – 39PTS, +12
  • Lubomir Visnovsky: 50GP – 8G – 23A – 31PTS, +6

There’s nothing wrong with that.

To Sum Up

There isn’t any question that Jay Bouwmeester could help this hockey team. The fact of the matter is that the Oilers already have a strong top-four, and spending a truck-load of dollars to bring in another high-end defenseman just doesn’t make sense when there are so many other more pressing concerns. Fans have been concocting complicated proposals involving signing Bouwmeester and then dealing a defenseman for a top-end forward; it’s much simpler to just go after the forward initially, isn’t it?

Besides, the Oilers would probably still have a good group of defensemen if they were to trade off one of the top-four and bring in a responsible depth guy to round out the group. Given that there are probably a dozen candidates on the free agent market and more available via trade, that seems to me to be the logical and cap-friendly route for the team to take.

In any case, there hasn’t been any real proof that Bouwmeester has a burning desire to come play for Edmonton any more than he wants to play anywhere else. There’s been a handful of rumours, from some comments on the ESPN Trade Deadline show to column written by Bruce “Malkin to the Kings” Garrioch. Certainly the player himself hasn’t said it, and beyond the fact that he’s from Edmonton there isn’t much linking him to the team. But even if Bouwmeester were willing to entertain offers from the Oilers, it simply doesn’t make sense for the Oilers to make him their number one target in the offseason – make no mistake, that’s what it will take for a team to land him – and miss out on opportunities that make more sense for the team.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan, I agree with you to a certain degree. The Oil should be wise to spend its money and we should target the goaltending and top-six forward issues first. However, the idea of trading a top 4 defenseman, e.g. Tom Gilbert (cap hit 4 mil) together with another forward (Nilson, Penner or whoever) would be a) financially possible without crossing or targeting the cap hit b) an upgrade on the backend and c) still open some moves. We then could fix the goaltending (as a Swiss I strongly can recommend Gerber, he plays excellent at the World Championship and wouldn't cost too much). Furthermore, why not going after Chris Philips to make the defense stronger? And last but not least, we could make a package of some underachievers (Pouliot, Schremp, Staios, a pick) to get a top six forward (I have no idea who it could be at the moment…reallisticly…I still dream of Kowaltchuk, he plays amazingly in the Russian team…). Any suggestions?

  • Hippy

    #Swiss Oil Fan wrote:

    And last but not least, we could make a package of some underachievers (Pouliot, Schremp, Staios, a pick) to get a top six forward (I have no idea who it could be at the moment…reallisticly…I still dream of Kowaltchuk, he plays amazingly in the Russian team…). Any suggestions?

    you wont get anything close to a top forward for those guys

  • Hippy

    So JW, with all the speculation about big ticket guys, would you sooner go for a few mid level guys to round out and balance our team. Seems like everyone wants one big player who will take us to the playoffs, but it seems like we need to fill 4 or 5 spots in order to truly compete. Not to mention the raises that will have to be dished out after the season for our young guys like Cogliano and Gagner, and crippling our cap with one huge deal won't help us.

  • Hippy

    The problem with this article is the part where you write that it's simpler to just go after a top forward.

    If the past couple years have taught us anything it is that high quality scoring forwards are not "simple" to sign. In fact our targets are taking less money to play elsewhere. It seems as though the only way we sign a top player right now is to over pay.

    If a player like him is willing to play here for fair market value then the best option is to grab him and get the forward talent we want through a trade or two.

    The idea that going directly after a scoring forward is simple is almost laughable at this point.

    I think it's also fair to say that if we have to wait for some forwards to develop then perhaps a 30-something top 2 defense is not the best idea right now either. Especially when a guy like Souray has possibly the highest trade value he will ever have.

  • Hippy

    The ceiling I would give JBo is 6.5mil cap hit. If someone wants to give 7 or 8 then let him go. But if we could get him an move out Gilbert, we'd burn 2.5 mil on the cap but our D corps would go from a very good D to one of the best in the NHL and have something to mold the team's identity around. A top 4 of JBo, Vis, Souray and Grebs would be expensive and we'd have to cheap out on the scoring, but it would force other teams forwards to back check and play D and would be well worth it.

  • Hippy

    Signing Bouwmeester would allow the Oilers to trade on of their top four defensemen without downgrading the D. We could package Gilbert with a forward to upgrade the offense, and the defense is surely better with Bouwmeester in Gilbert's stead. Depending on which forward is traded, the Oilers may not even take on any salary. And even if they do, room can always be made on a team for a top-15 defenseman who would fill the need for a top shutdown guy. As far as I'm concerned, Bouwmeester should absolutely be a priority. He would instantly upgrade the D and allow us to upgrade the O as well.

  • Hippy

    Well put Jonathan. I think it's a matter of need. Given that we're going to overpay for JBo (no way he's coming here for "fair value") or a decent forward, which acquisition would make us the better team? Our D is pretty solid, so would making a good D great be worth more than adding scoring ability? From what I saw this year, we're in desperate need of more scoring.

    This idea that we're going to be able to trade some of our underachievers for a big gun doesn't fly though. If it's obvious to us fans a player isn't worth his contract, what makes you think any GM will think differently? Fact is – we have very few trade-worthy assets and those are the guys we're not going to want to trade.

    One other thing. Tencer's (gag) interview with Tambellini was telling in that he stated several times that we're too heavy with contracts. We're going to dump a couple of guys at least, so it seems the team is committed to finding a top flight guy at the expense of some dead wood, which might mean a bought out contract or two, or sending somebody to Springfield. That's fine by me.

  • Hippy

    Willis, I think a lot of the discussion on yesterday's article was based on the assumption that JBo wants to be an Oiler. I think everyone involved in that discussion agreed that the Oil dont NEED JBo, but if the opportunity came to sign him at a reasonable price it would allow the Oil to move other valuable assets to address more pressing issues.

    Acquiring JBo at a reasonable price would be like taking the best player available in the 1st round of the draft regardless of need, you just do it.

  • Hippy

    @ David S:
    I agree. I mentioned yesterday that a team like Montreal who has lost a ton of Offensive defensemen and has a bunch of money coming off the books will likely offer JBo the moon.
    The whole discussion was based on an assumption that is not verifiable nor likely to occur but is still somewhat plausible. If I were him I would go to a winner, but thats me. He will have a long career and unless he signs a 15 year deal he will have at least one more contract to negotiate after this one. He can wait before he comes home to Edmonton.

  • Hippy

    Kingsblade, this is absolutely right. Nobody want's to play in Edmonton and the only way to get someone good here is to trade for him. But look at the Edmonton media. J.Bo is not needed, Jagr is to old and not needed, Hosa can stay in Detroit, Gaborik is injured to much and not needed and so on and so on and so on. WHO do we need Willis? Who is good enouth for us? Who is cheep enouth? How are YOU going to get him? I am sick and tired of people saying 'no' to a good player and than cry in April that Oilers are not in the play-offs.

  • Hippy

    kingsblade wrote:

    If the past couple years have taught us anything it is that high quality scoring forwards are not “simple” to sign.

    Is it not simpler though to go through all that crap you just explained, or to go through all that PLUS spend all sorts of time and energy making room cap wise to sign Jbo AND a top quality forward?

  • Hippy

    They should pursue JayBo.

    If anything, it gives them the option of using Souray as a trading chip.
    Gilbert's already a trading chip of course.

    We've seen how hard it is for the Oilers to sign elite FA forwards. They've been much more successful through the trade route. Hell, this won't happen, but why not sign JayBo as a FA and then trade him for a forward? 🙂

  • Hippy

    glenn wrote:

    Nobody want’s to play in Edmonton

    It blows my mind that people are still using this shitty argument. Do you have anything at all to back that up? Because it seems to me up until last season we were dealing with an ownership group who's arms were short and pockets were long and KLowe was always having to string together a team on a budget.
    Jesus christ just because we don't have Hossa, Backstrom, Kovalchuck, etc, it must be pretty obvious that no one wants to play in Edmonton. Give it a rest.

  • Hippy

    @ glenn:

    I'd look at Havlat/Gaborik/Tanguay/Lehtinen/and maybe Fedotenko (although I haven't focused on those players yet) as options for the LW and bring in a tough minutes centre (Pahlsson/Bonk/Malhotra) and a depth defenseman or two (Tjarnqvist/Skrastins/Foster/DeVries/Havelid/Klee/Gill/Scuderi/Weaver/Malik/Melichar/Vaananen/Ohlund). Depending on what I can get on the free agent market, I'd then move one of the defenseman (given ages, contracts and health probably Souray) to fill whatever holes I wasn't able to address in free agency.

    A bigger name LW who can play in all three zones and a pair of depth defensemen to shore up the roster.

    That's assuming that I don't have any players I've identified via trade as more desirable than the free agents – my guess is that the #4 spot on the defense (once one of the big-4 is moved) would be a fill-in via trade.

  • Hippy

    I think Dan said it best above.

    JayBo is a significant upgrade on Gilbert. He is bigger, much faster, a much better defender and would, with Souray, Grebeshkov and Viz, give Edmonton a top 4 to match with any D in the league. That is the major reason Anaheim beat san Jose…. 45 minutes of each game they had Neidemeyer and Pronger on the ice.

    For the extra 2.5 to 3 million per….. we upgrade significantly

    Gilbert and Nilsson then allow us to upgrade our noted weaknesses. Say TG and RN for Colton Gilles (or Cal Clutterbuck) and Harding from Minny. A sold starting golaie and a big body for 3rd line at a realatively cheap price

  • Hippy

    jeanshorts wrote:

    Is it not simpler though to go through all that crap you just explained, or to go through all that PLUS spend all sorts of time and energy making room cap wise to sign Jbo AND a top quality forward?

    That's exactly my point. Thank you, Jeanshorts.

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    Problem is, JBo will NOT come here at a reasonable price. Almost guaranteed he’d be an overpay, given reality and Jonathan’s Point #1 above.

    This is a major problem that people are ignoring. The classic line is "give JBO 6.5 and then move Gilbert for a top-six forward…"

    Do the math. At 6.5 for Bouwmeester, even moving Gilbert 2.5MM is getting added to the cap, PLUS whatever your shiny new forward costs. So your 7-8 MM becomes 4.5-5.5 MM for a top-six forward, a number one goaltender, and raises for Grebeshkov, Brodziak and Smid.

    It's impossible. This team needs to save money on the back-end, not pile more money on to it, and the way to do that is to move one of Souray, Visnovsky or Gilbert and bring in a cheaper physical guy with less of an offensive game to play shut-down in the top-four.

    It's a cap world folks.