It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have had issues defensively not only this season, but for the last few. They brought in Justin Schultz this season, and while there’s every indication that will turn into a No. 1 blue-liner he is an offense-first player and still a work-in-progress defensively.
Last year’s shutdown pair in Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid have struggled this season, but have the ability to still be effective in that role and be in the top four. They are not top pairing defensemen though, and don’t have the complete game to be able to play the top minutes in all situations. Those defenseman certainly do not grow on trees and are not readily available.
The last time Edmonton had one, it was Chris Pronger, and he took them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. He couldn’t wait to get out of town either.
There may be one defenseman out there that is both available and willing to come to Edmonton. That player is Jay Bouwmeester of the Calgary Flames. With the recent Jarome Iginla trade, it appears the rebuild is on in Calgary, and any veteran players could be made available.
Bouwmeester has faced his share of criticism, mostly focused on the fact he has never been to the playoffs and has a large salary of $6.7 million. What he does bring to the table is size at 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, and a flawless skater that can regularly log 25+ minutes a night.
While he may not put up the offensive numbers like a Kris Letang or Shea Weber, he makes an excellent first pass and doesn’t look out of place on the power play. He’s also one of the best penalty killers in the league and logs big-time minutes when short-handed as well.
The Oilers ideally need a left-handed top pairing defenseman to pair with Schultz long term that is still in his prime. A tall order no doubt, but Bouwmeester is a lefty shot, just 29-years of age and an Edmonton native to boot.
While his contract is a potential detriment, it’s not a ridiculous amount to pay for a player that plays as much as Bouwmeester does.
Comparables in terms of contract would be Dan Boyle, Dion Phaneuf or Brent Seabrook. While arguments could be made for a variety of reasons on all three, Bouwmeester is not out of place in that conversation, and most Oiler fans would rather see $6.7 million paid to Bouwmeester rather than $5.5 million to Shawn Horcoff.
With a potential fire sale coming in Calgary, there will be many suitors for his services and Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and the Oilers would be best to be part of that group and convince Bouwmeester to waive his no-trade clause to come home to Edmonton.