St. Louis Blues head coach Mike Yeo said that veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in today’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to Canadian Press’ Joshua Clipperton.
The 35-year-old is in the final year of a five-year, $27MM deal at $5.4MM AAV, but hasn’t been as effective as he’s usually been since missing all, but 35 games in the 2017-18 season. The team, which was expected to compete at a much higher level after acquiring a number of offensive players during the offseason, including Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak and Pat Maroon, have struggled with a 1-5 start. The defense was supposed to be their strong point, but it has struggled this year. Bouwmeester, who is third on the team with an ATOI of 20:50, hasn’t helped with a minus-four this year in six games.
“Obviously decisions like this come when you’re not winning hockey games,” said Yeo (via the Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford). “We’re forced into a position where we have to make difficult decisions. I think part of it is that Schmaltz and Dunn have been playing very well for us. It’s a very, very difficult decision for me as a coach when you’ve got a player you respect like Bouw and what he’s accomplished in his career. Really what it comes down to is we see Bouw at a very high level and we value what he can bring… (But) we don’t feel it’s quite at that level. Maybe it’s the time off from last year, maybe it’s confidence, I’m not sure. But hopefully a game like this gives him a chance to reset and get to that level.”
The Blues are well-known for moving out contracts of veterans who are in their last year of their contract at the trade deadline even when they are fighting for a playoff spotand could be considering moving on from him later this season. The team moved Kevin Shattenkirk in 2016-17 and then moved out Paul Stastny last year. Bouwmeester has played 1,112 games over the course of his NHL career, 362 of which have come in St. Louis.