CALGARY — Saturday afternoon, Jay Bouwmeester was enjoying a relaxed round of golf with his dad Dan near his off-season home in Edmonton.
No big deal.
The fact that his rights, just hours before, had been shifted from the Florida Panthers to the Calgary Flames didn’t faze Bouwmeester.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “I’d heard all the rumblings that something was going to happen. But rumours are rumours till something actually happens. But, you know, it’s kind of fresh and it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It definitely gives you a lot to think about.”
Yes, this guy is as mellow as Darryl Sutter is snarky.
And it was the Flames boss, who, in making his annual draft-weekend splash, had peddled Jordan Leopold, a pending unrestricted free agent, and a third-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for a few days of exclusive negotiating with the star defenceman and his Edmonton-based representative Bryon Baltimore.
“I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s been an interesting process and a lot to think about — just another bump in the road,” said Bouwmeester, who, this past season, drew a salary of $4.875 million US. “I’ve been around — and been through — enough negotiations and contracts that you learn a bit about the business. You see what goes on with other guys in certain situations. When it’s out of your hands, there’s not much reason to get too worked up about it.
“Sometimes there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Just take it as it comes, I guess.”
Only 25 years old — and with 471 big-league games already to his credit — Bouwmeester had been poised to become the shiniest unrestricted catch on the market.
A monstrous lad, six foot four and 214 pounds, he’s a solid defender and an able attacker (203 points, including 42 last winter). The third overall pick in 2002, Bouwmeester is also a splendid skater. He’s also durable — 82 games in five of his six seasons — and he paced the NHL in ice time in 2008-09, 26:59.
Now all the Flames have to do is sign him by Wednesday.
Helping matters is the day’s salary dump — Jim Vandermeer and his $2.3 million price tag going to the Phoenix Coyotes in return for old friend Brandon Prust, who weighs in at a trim $500,000.
The Flames now have $45.618 million committed to 16 players.
The NHL’s salary cap is $56.8 million.
Certainly, people are wondering how Bouwmeester — who figures to command Dion Phaneuf-type money ($6.5 million) — can fit into the Flames’ pay grid?
“It’s really not that hard,” Sutter told a Calgary radio station. “If they got even past Grade 10 in math, they should be able to figure it out.”
As soon as possible, the Flames will try to woo Bouwmeester with bucks and term and a chance to play alongside premier defenders such as Robyn Regehr and Phaneuf.
“He’s a good enough player, he understands what type of team we have and the type of defence we have,” Sutter told the radio station. “To be able to play with guys like Dion and Robyn for a long time . . . that, to me, is pretty significant.”
There is speculation that, for Sutter to make this particular deal, a contract is nearly hammered out.
Not true, insists Bouwmeester.
“No, there hasn’t been any talks,” he said. “In order to talk to someone, you need permission and that was never granted (till Saturday). Rules are rules — you can’t talk to anybody. So I’m kind of flying in the dark here a little bit . . . so that’s kind of where it is.”
But talk isn’t cheap and to have the ear of Bouwmeester — while 28 other teams pant at the gate — came at the price.
“Remember what we gave up?” Sutter said to NHL.com. “We gave up a very good unrestricted player and a third-round pick.”
Florida interim general manager Randy Sexton acknowledged that the Flames had rated high on a Bouwmeester-authored list of suitable suitors.
“We felt all along that there were not going to be any free looks,” Sexton told NHL.com. “We tried really hard to get a second-round pick for him, but no one was willing to pony up.”
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