In a surprising move Monday to bolster the left side of the defense, the St. Louis Blues landed Calgary Flames veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester for two prospects and a conditional first-round draft pick.
The Blues acquired the 29-year-old Bouwmeester for defense prospect Mark Cundari, goaltending prospect Reto Berra and a 2013 first-round pick.
However, if the Blues do not qualify for the 2013 playoffs, the Flames will also receive a 2013 fourth-round pick and the first-round pick will be deferred until 2014.
Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong announced the trade after the first period of the team's game against Minnesota. The team could still make further moves before the trade deadline at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
"I think it gives us a 25-minute player that's going to come in and help right away," Armstrong said. "He's a dynamic skater, a big body, a strong defender who has played exclusively with top players over the last decade.
"He's a legitimate top-tier defenseman. We certainly changed the outlook on the left side of our defense without hurting our current roster, which was certainly our goal."
It was the second major trade in the past week by the Flames, who also dealt captain Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bouwmeester, who had six goals and 15 points in 33 games with the Flames this season, has another year left on a contract that will pay him $6.68 million. The Blues have talked to the Flames about Bouwmeester in the past and finally were able to get the deal done.
While the Blues had more salary cap space available than any team in the league, a move like this represents a significant commitment on the part of owner Tom Stillman and the franchise.
"It's one thing to say you're committed to doing what's necessary to be successful, it's another thing to step up and do it," Armstrong said. "The commitment they made today is a real good sign and hopefully something our fans and our corporate partners are excited about."
Bouwmeester has played in 621 straight games and is considered a reliable defenseman with superior puck-moving and skating skills. He also has the ironic quality of playing 750 games in the NHL without playing in a playoff game.
He was the third overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, beginning his career with the Florida Panthers before joining Calgary in 2009.
Bouwmeester has 71 goals and 300 points in 750 NHL games and has not missed a game the last seven-plus seasons. He had five goals and 29 points in 82 games a year ago.
The move strengthens the Blues defense, but also creates a logjam of players pushing for ice time.
The Blues also acquired veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold on Saturday from the Buffalo Sabres. Leopold made his Blues' debut Monday night against the Minnesota Wild.
"Time will tell, but we think we have one of the strongest defense forces in the NHL now," Armstrong said. "(Jay) is just such a dynamic skater, he has the ability to transport the puck out of difficult areas himself and makes a really good first pass. His efficiency is second to none."
If the Blues use Bouwmeester on the top pairing with Alex Pietrangelo, they could use Kevin Shattenkirk with newcomer Leopold or Barret Jackman and still have Roman Polak to use in a solid third pairing.
That would leave former top-six defensemen Wade Redden and Kris Russell out of the loop along with former first-round pick Ian Cole.
Leopold's contract expires after this season.
With nine NHL defenseman at their disposal, the Blues will likely look to make another move or two.
"We'll see what transpires between now and the trade deadline," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said with Canadian immigration paperwork to be dealt with, Bouwmeester could join the Blues by Wednesday.