Why The Oilers Should Not Pursue Jay 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

    Archaeologuy, most of them have one way contracts and will be paid millions for playing in AHL. We have new GM now. Let him show what he can do and trade them away. If he can't than he is no better then his friend K. Lowe.

  • Hippy

    @ glenn:
    Uh, so your plan is to force 29 other GMs to take toxic contracts with little upside even if they dont want them? And why would that be a bad reflection on Tambi? He would only be making the Oil better by removing bad contracts from the equation. And why are you even worrying about how much money they make, the Oil have a Billionaire owner who can afford to pay Steve Staios to play in the AHL.

    Obviously Plan A would be move the contracts and receive assets in return, but in the likely event that no one in the NHL wants to pay Steve Staios 2.7 million dollars next year there is always the option to start him in the minors at the beginning of the season and not have ANY of his salary count against the cap.

    It seems to me that not many people here consider that an option but I dont know why the Oilers would allow a 6th defenseman to prevent them from signing or acquiring a top line players.

  • Hippy

    @ Archaeologuy
    Who said anything bad about Tambi? I said that he would be bad if he can't trade Staios and Moreau because, remember, they are the leaders. The new owner is a billioner because he saves money and not spend them so I worry. You are right about sixth defenceman. It should not be a factor. Thay shoul be able to keep Souray. Remember Pitkanen for Cole trade? They should be able to sigh 1st line LW and keep othe D-men because they have to many contrakts to trade.

  • Hippy

    Kotalik (2.5) – Horton (4) – Hemsky (4.1)
    T. Hunter (2) – Gagner (1.6) – Cogliano (1.2)
    Moreau (2) – Horcoff (5.5) – Pisani (2.5)
    Jacques (0.6) – Brodziak (1) – Stortini (0.7)
    Reddox (0.7) Pouliot (0.8)

    Bouwmeester (6.5) – Visnosvky (5.6)
    Souray (5.4) – Grebeshkov (3)
    Smid (1.5) – Peckham (0.6)
    Strudwick (0.6)

    Roloson/Clemmensen (2)
    JDD (0.6)

    This all comes to around a 55 million cap hit.
    Horton and Hunter are naturally examples but try and fill the top 6 out with those types of players. It isn't impossible to work around an expensive defense, it just means we'll have to cheap out on the goaltending and a little on the scoring.

    We'd have to hold a garage sale though for the remaining players not on the list but we'd have to do that anyway with the huge amount of forwards we have kicking around.

  • Hippy

    glenn wrote:

    Jeanshorts,I wish I could but I can’t. With the new owner Hosa said ‘no’ to $9 mil per year and went to Detroit, Jagr said ‘no’ and went to Siberia. Do I need to tell you about old owners and people that said ‘no’? But that is not the point. I was just trying to point your attention to the fact about Edmonton media and them poo-poo every good player, how Oilers for one reason or another don’t need them.

    Don't forget Naslund/Gomez/Karya the year before. It should be pertty clear Edmonton is near the bottom of places players want to play (and rightfully so)

  • Hippy

    glenn wrote:

    Who said anything bad about Tambi?

    uh you did

    glenn wrote:

    Let him show what he can do and trade them away. If he can’t than he is no better then his friend K. Lowe.

    A GM isnt bad if he cant move bad contracts that he didnt negotiate. That's called having your hands tied. Except, the Oil dont have their hands tied, they have options which include burying guys in the minors.

    As far as Katz not becoming a Billionaire by spending money, that is totally false. Business men spend money to make money all the time. And if paying Staios 2.7 mill to play in the AHL returns in the form of playoff home games then its an investment that made a return. AND in the playoffs he'd be elligible to return to the team (if memory serves me correct about the roster rules).

    I'm just saying its an option that isnt talked about that often here because it doesnt return assets to the team, but it is much more realistic than hoping the Thrashers will take Staios and Penner for Kovalchuk.

  • Hippy

    @ Archaeologuy:

    That is the loophole in the salary cap. Although I don't know how many players will be productive in the playoffs after spending a full year in the AHL.

  • Hippy

    Agreed. As good as Bouwmeester is, this team has more glaring issues to address and they don't have much cap space to do so. They're already handcuffed by bad contracts (see: Penner, Dustin and Horcoff, Shawn) and unless they can unload some of their salary then signing JayBo just isn't feasible.

    Even if they could make some more room under the cap, big contracts, as we've witnessed firsthand, destroy a team's flexibility in fulfilling their needs and putting together a more complete roster.

  • Hippy

    Talking about attracting free agents…. Burying guys in the minors after you have signed them to a contract is a great way to show the league what a classy organization you have.

  • 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?

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

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

    So let me get this straight, you guys would like the Oilers to make player decisions based on which path leads to the least amount of legwork for management? Becasue that's what this sounds like.

    Look not one single person on here has stated that we want to overpay for Bouwmeester. What we have said is that IF we can get him at market value it is a better solution than overpaying a forward directly.

    It is a simple matter of managing assets. If you need a loonie for an arcade game and someone offers you 4 quarters you don't turn it down because it's too much work to go to the counter and exchange it.

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    You only guarantee they all sign elsewhere if you’re busy pursuing a defenseman while all the forwards are taking calls.

    Are you claiming that they now cannot negotiate with multiple players at the same time? He would be a pretty poor GM if he only talked to one player at a time.

    So far the best argument against Bouwmeester is the cost of his contract, but:

    1) We have agreed we don't want to overpay, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be in the conversation.

    2) Why do people repeatedly talk about having to overpay him while ignoring the fact that we are just as likely to overpay a forward? If you want to apply that argument then you have to apply it both ways.

    In short – what gets you the most for your money?

    If a scorer could be had for Souray and we can get Bouwmeester at fair cost then not only do we still get the scorer but our defense just got a hell of a lot younger. Signing a scorer directly cannot make that happen. If Bouwmeester is too much then, oh well, because our defense is pretty good already.

  • Hippy

    Yeah, I'm with you, Willis.

    Looking at Dennis' scoring chance stuff, and the problem with the Oilers isn't the top end of the roster. Horcoff may not bring much sizzle with the steak, but he influenced outchancing in a terrific way considering the quality of opp he faced, how many times he came over the boards with the play headed south, and how many own zone draws he took against good competition, many of them on his weaker side of the ice (right hand side).

    The next coach is going to like him just as much as MacTavish, maybe more, because coaches careers depnd on winning, and they tend to like players that help them do it, regardless of how well those same players help fans win hockey pools, or what the video game programmers think of those players.

    The guys playing softer opposition, the kids, they got outchanced badly though, and this starting in the right end more, rarely coming over the boards with the momentum pendulum hung up on the wrong end of the clock, and often coming out against tired legs (the kid line did play quite a bit against good comp on the early road stretch, but a bunch of that was a gainst tired legs … so they played more against Getzlaf's line in ANA, but it's less impressive when you consider that Getzlaf's line had averaged 25 seconds of ice before the kids came over the boards, and Carlyle probably only let them play long shifts because he knew how weak the kids were, and the alternative (Horcoff/Hemsky/other) was unpleasant to him.

    The bottom of the roster got just destroyed in terms of chances and possession 46% by scoring chances, 45% by possession using shots directed at net. Which meshes with what we saw.

    This team needs real NHL forwards IMO, though it's a balance with developing the young guys I know. Still, someone besides Horcoff's line has to outchance, and to finish most of their shifts in the kind of way that the next guys aren't starting with a problem.

    Trent Hunter (me, I absolutely love this player's game), Fedotenko, Colby Armstrong, Frolov, hell even uys like Park, Veillieux, Jokinen, Miettinen, Moen, Grier, etc … real NHL players, guys who don't cheat for their offense, finish their shifts well, play in traffic and are hard on the puck … this team needs that desperately.

    Calgary's bottom D pair went from sinkhole to plus-minus and corsi+/- (and surely scoring chance +/-) gods when guys like Rene Bourque and Curtis Glencross were added to the roster. The same will happen to the Oilers. Either that or they go with another year of player development, but they've surely got to start picking their horses soon, it's too many kids, and it's not Kane/Toews or Malkin/Crosby we're talking about.

    The decision on whether to continure developing Cogliano as a center is step one, and I would think that Tambellini has already decided on that. After that it's pretty straightforward IMO.

    Get some bonafide NHL forwards.

  • Hippy

    @ kingsblade:
    What teams have besides Jersey really? And what free agents did they attract? Rolston? yay. That's more because of a winning track record. People go where they are going to win and where they are going to be treated good. If the Oilers had a reputation for embarrassing respected players in the later stages of their contracts by sending them down….

    It's not a realistic option. Although it would work.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    By the way, for everyone who figures the Oilers can just dump some combination of Nilsson, Moreau and Staios to make cap room, how many teams do you think will be looking to take on overpaid depth players in July with the cap going down?
    I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between “0″ and “0″.

    Jonathan is absolutely accurate here; anyone who observes other leagues with salary caps and guaranteed contracts (like the NBA) can see that often the only way out of a bad contract, is to trade it for another bad contract and hope the new bad contract can produce more than the old. It's called shuffling the deck, and shows why cap space, outside of player development, is the most valuable commodity in a cap world.

  • Hippy

    I love how people automatically assume no GM would touch a Staois or a penner contract.
    I bet there are several GM's who would love either player. How many bad contracts did we dump before only to watch the player blossom under different conditions? Each GM knows the strengths and weaknesses of everyone under them and based on that they know generally how someone will fit into the org. The Sharks had Roenick playing well for gosh sakes and most people wrote him off!
    Even in 06 lowe picked up everyone elses garbage and look how they meshed

  • Hippy

    @ Travis Dakin:

    Off the top of my head….Pittsburgh assigned Satan at the trade deadline last season, and he had been brought in to play on Crosby's line. Is that "disrespectful" enough for you?

  • Hippy

    Jonny Willis… If July 1st rolls around and you're Tambellini, sitting in your comfy office chair smoking a cuban cigar, when suddenly the phone rings and its Bouwmeester's agent telling you he'd like to come home, whats your move? IMO You HAVE to make room for Bouwmeester. He is an all-around type D-man, something we either don't have or don't have at the same level of quality. He is an upgrade, and what we have in our deck right now is a strong commodity. We have to move one of our lesser pieces for something of value and take Bouwmeester in. IF he is interested in being here there is no other reasonable course of action. You move one of our highly paid guys for a Giroux/Neal/Ebbett type (whatever you can muscle in terms of rookie contract players for whatever D-man is considered most desirable), and sign up Bouwmeester.

  • Hippy

    @ JB:

    The NBA is really not a good comparison because it is not a hard cap. The rules are very very different. Besides, salary dumps DO happen there, eg. Camby, or Jason Richardson. Not to mention the constant salary moves based on duration to clear up space.

    It all comes down to whether or not there are teams with cap room who want the type of player being offered.

    Besides the NBA what league did you have in mind? I can't think of any that make for a good comparable with the NHL.

  • Hippy

    @ alphah.:

    I'm thinking Tambo will have his ear to the ground, and if he hears an inkling that JBo would like to come home, you jump the gun and trade for his rights in June and start schmoozing him from there. I wouldn't do it for a first, not sure I'd do it for a 2nd either, but I'd give them one of our 3rds or a roster player we deem expendable.

  • Hippy

    I diagree with that Jon. Tambo said on CBC HNIC Radio the day after the trade deadline that Staios was heavily persued but nothing of substance was offered back. I cant speak to Nillson or Mporeau, but I cant imagine theyre impossible to move if it came to it.

  • Hippy

    If Tambi signs J-Bo on July 1, every other GM in the league will know we're up against the cap even worse than before, and will fleece us (ala Pronger) when we're trying to re-arrange assets to make room. I have a hard time thinking he'd let that happen – he'll go after what we do need rather than going after the 'best available' – this isn't the draft. It's a big 'ol chess match…

  • Hippy

    @ SkinnyD:
    There are other teams in similar situations. Not saying it would happen, but the Flyers have a need for a puckmoving D and they also have excess scoring forwards making too much coin. If they could distribute their $'s around more evenly, they probably would. A Gagne-Visnovsky deal (likely involving others) could help them achieve that. Then they could dump some smaller bits to create cap room (Randy Jones, Joff Lupul, etc.). That's just 1 example from 1 team. Even if they didn't get equal value, the Oil would still come ahead (a toonie and 2 quarters is more valuble than a loonie and 5 quarters)

  • Hippy

    I think everybody here should stop thinking JBo is going to come here for anything less than a crazy overpay. It just isn't going to happen. Fer cryin'out loud, this isn't EA sports. Let me say it again for the cheap seats – JBo is NOT coming here for fair value. End of story.

    Let's just assume anybody of any decent quality we acquire this summer will be an overpay. Thus, with a decent D already in place, if we're going to get fleeced I'd rather we use our money to go after a decent forward because as Vic has laid out, that's where we're hurting the most.

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    Let me say it again for the cheap seats – JBo is NOT coming here for fair value. End of story.

    Oh, now that "David S." has spoken from his seat of authority we can all end the conversation now. You should probably call Tambellini as well to make sure he doesn't waste his time by making a phone call to see what kind of money it would take. David S. said end of story.

    Look, we are having a conversation about "ifs". We are all well aware of that fact. We are equally aware of the fact that he will likely sign somewhere for too much money. Why does that mean we can't discuss the possibility of his signing, or what the team should do if it turns out to be a possibility? Are you saying you've never discussed anything hypothetical before?

    My favorite part of your post was how you, at the end, express a preference to being fleeced by a forward. What is the difference? If we are overpaying we are overpaying. At least if we overpay him by 1.5 million we can still get some scoring and our D gets younger. If we overpay a forward by 1.5 all we get is the scoring and our defense is as old and brittle as ever.

    If you want to act like an authority of some kind at least try not to discredit your own argument at the end of your post.

    So fat the only reasonable argument I have seen against is the one which mentioned that if he gets signed then other GM's know we need to move some defense, yet even that has been addressed.

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    Thus, with a decent D already in place, if we’re going to get fleeced I’d rather we use our money to go after a decent forward because as Vic has laid out, that’s where we’re hurting the most.

    So how is getting "fleeced" for a forward any better than getting "fleeced" for a defenseman AND THEN moving a current defenseman for a forward of equal cap value?
    If you pay 7 mil for a forward OR pay 7 mil for a defenseman AND THEN trade a 5.6 mil (ish) defenseman for a 5.6 mil (ish) forward – ITS THE SAME THING. And I'm not even suggesting that the forward would make that necassarily (although I've suggested about 5.25-Simon Gagne, not a big diff).

    I'm not deadset on signing J-Bo at all cost, but I think if its a reasonable option, its a no-brainer.

  • Hippy

    kingsblade wrote:

    We are all well aware of that fact. We are equally aware of the fact that he will likely sign somewhere for too much money.

    Your words, not mine. A "hypothetical" involves speculation about something that MIGHT be possible. What I'm saying is that JBo won't be coming here for anything close to "fair value", something you yourself agree with. Thus the hypothesis doesn't hold and the conversation becomes like a bunch of drunk guys repeating the same thing over and over. "Brodziak and Staios for Malkin. Beer me."

    RossCreek – I see where you're coming from. But I still don't think JBo will ever be a reasonable option. There's just way too much hungry money out there this summer. Besides, Souray would make a f*ck of a C, something we sorely need. Not sure, but doesn't Souray have a NTC?

  • Hippy

    David S wrote:

    Besides, Souray would make a f*ck of a C, something we sorely need. Not sure, but doesn’t Souray have a NTC?

    The 5.6 reference was to Visnovsky, not Souray (5.4).

    Having said that, here's an off-the-wall thought:
    What if instead of all the Gilbert (and to a lesser extent – Grebeshkov) talk, the Oil instead chose to keep those 2 for age reasons and instead move BOTH Souray & Visnovsky. Obviously this would only be if Bou signed here AND if you could replace the toughness void that moving Souray (and Staios)would create. One could be moved for a top 6 forward, while the other could be moved for some much needed prospects to restock the shelves. Essentially, it would be like the old song – Money For Nothing – the Oil wouldn't take that big of a hit on the backend (if at all), plus they would add a scoring forward & prospect(s), all the while keeping the young core of the team intact (something I'd argue, although not that strongly, they may have messed up in moving guys like Stoll, Torres & Greene, regardless of whom was received in return).

    In any case, I'm NOT saying that I'd go this route for certain, but maybe its a bit of a different approach to think of. Heck, why not think of every different possibility no matter how "ridiculous" they may seem at first. Exhaust all avenues in your brain before coming to a conclusive decision. This scenario would likely have even more question marks than the previous, but its something to at least think about, no? I myself may decide this approach would be stupid down the road, but right now I'm not sure I'd dismiss much – there's lots of time before the decisions turn to actions.

    And to those who didn't like the approach of moving 2 of the top 4 D-men before, obviously I don't expect you to change your views now (although the logic seems flawed if you're willing to move Gilbert as things currently stand, but not willing to move 2 of the top 4 if a guy like Bouwmeester were added – if you're willing to move 1 of the top 4 now, why wouldn't you be willing to move 2 of the top 4 if you add a #1?)

  • Hippy

    kingsblade wrote:

    Are you claiming that they now cannot negotiate with multiple players at the same time? He would be a pretty poor GM if he only talked to one player at a time.

    So you fax a 1yr, 6MM contract offer over to MArian Gaborik, and a 5 year, 32.5 MM contract offer to Bouwmeester. Both accept. You can't possibly fit both in without massive rearrangements, and everyone knows you're up the creek without a paddle so they lean on you hard (like Anaheim found out when the tried to move first MacDonald and then again when they tried to move Schneider).

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:
    So your saying you'd rather make the commitment to an oft-injured player on a 1 year deal than to a homegrown stud on the backend that vitually plays half the game and could anchor the blueline in eTown for the next 10 years??

    Your logic makes SOME sense but your example is piess poor.

    As soon as an offer was accepted by 1 player, the offer could be pulled from the other player. Chances they agree at the exact same moment – slim (unless they have the same agent, I suppose). The deal would still have to be signed & verified, so its not exactly like they'd get "stuck up the creek without a paddle". I'm sure a team can back out of a deal if a player can (Nylander), although that may not look all that good.