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Jacques Martin Talks Jay Bouwmeester (and the Panthers)

Jaybo4 BOSTON -- Jacques Martin was part of a conference call today (I missed out because I was stuck flying today. But good news: USAir starts giving out free soda and water in coach come March 1!)

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching (Florida's final game of this five-game roadie is March 3; the deadline is the following day) and JM the GM spoke at length about what's going on with Jay and the Panthers.

A report out of Philadelphia says that the Panthers don't want to take back any money in a potential Bouwmeester deal. This would jibe with a report Ottawa's Bruce Garrioch offered up a few months ago.

If this is indeed the case (and I'm pretty sure it is not), here's my take: The Panthers are struggling financially and don't want to add payroll. If Jay is traded, only a fraction of his salary would go to the new team. If Jay is traded after the Atlanta game, there would be 18 games left. That means Jay is due just over a million bones. But, in this economy, a million bucks is a million bucks.

That said, a million is not that much -- in the hockey world -- so the Panthers could just keep him. But another couple of employees were let go recently. They are trying to save money all over, and, well, Jay is a very well paid employee. The ones the Panthers have let go are not.

Financials aside, let's look at what the Panthers have if they don't get a veteran player in return and just go the draft pick/prospect route: JM must feel confident that No. 7 defenseman Noah Welch can step in and play OK.

Of course, if the Panthers don't get anything back, someone has to come up from Rochester.

My money is on Jason Garrison. JM really seems to like this rookie, and by all accounts, he's been playing well for the Amerks. Spoke to JM about him a few weeks ago and he had a lot of good things to day, mostly, that if Florida needed a d-man, he would be the guy. Keaton Ellerby could also be an option, but Garrison is an older guy (he played at Minnesota-Duluth) and did well in his one game with the Panthers.

I'm not implying the Panthers think either player is the next Jay Bouwmeester, nor do they think either is close to that elite level. But they might think they can survive with those two.

Are these good options? Don't think so. Not for today. Tomorrow maybe. But this franchise has had too many promises of tomorrow.

And, for the record, JM has told me and said today in his Q&A that he wants to help the franchise today. That would mean a team has to overwhelm JM to make any kind of deal. And money would be coming back along with some mix of draft picks and prospects.

But I'm hearing this ''no money coming back'' from too many places to dismiss it. We'll see what happens.

Does JM believe Jay will resign? ''I don't know how much belief.''

Hey, the Panthers could just resign Jay and that would be that. Speaking of that, the top photo is courtesy of BarryMelroseRocks.com...funny post on Jay here....

Here's part of the transcript, courtesy of the NHL. Key quotes (in my opinion) in bold italics:

DAVID KEON: We now have with us Florida Panthers general manager Jacques Martin. Jacques will be involved in his 15th NHL trade deadline next week. The Panthers currently have a record of 30-21-8 for 68 points, good for second in the Southeast Division and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.


            Q. In general for the trade deadline or the summer, you guys are in a playoff berth, but unfortunately your power play is 26th in the league. Would you be resorting to looking for these type of players in general to help out those situations?
 


They are coming off a week where they shut out two of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, Boston and New Jersey. Thanks to Jacques for joining us. We'll open it up for questions now.
 
Q. I was wondering about approaching the trade deadline when the team is in a situation like this in the midst of a playoff race. How much does marketing, how much does the trust of the fans play into any sort of personnel decisions you make at the deadline?
           
JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think we appreciate our fans a great deal, but I think from a management standpoint, you can't manage your franchise or your hockey team according to the fans. I think we have people that evaluate our team on a daily basis. The last couple years we've tried to build a team that would put this franchise in the playoffs moving forward, and we evaluate areas that we need to improve, and when you get into a trading deadline like next week, you probably look to improve your club for the stretch drive if you can, or at the same time, I think we like our hockey club. We think our hockey club has grown a great deal since last summer. We've made a lot of moves in the offseason, a lot of acquisition, and we feel that our team is improving as the season is moving along.

Q. Given the answer to that question, can you give us an update then on where you are with Jay in terms of bringing him under contract, if it's still an option? And if you don't think it is realistically between now and July 1st, what's your strategy moving forward with an eye to maximizing your assets for the future?

JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think it's clear that our priority for this franchise at this point in time is to make the playoffs this year. I think we're in the process of evaluating what's available for Jay Bouwmeester, and come March 4th a decision will be made whether we move forward with Jay on our team or if I feel that I can get something that makes us a better club, then the possibility of moving him. But I think the priority for us right now is to move forward to improve our club, to make the playoffs this year, and I don't want to disturb that.
          
So depending on what's available, if it's a good transition, if we feel we can improve certain areas of our hockey club, then that would be a possibility. But I think there's also a possibility that we retain Jay, then we see where we're at after the season.

Q. Does that suggest any kind of package you would be looking at between now and March 4th, you would need somebody to come in and play in your line?up, whether it was to bolster your offense or wherever, but you would need someone to play now as opposed to a package that was strictly futures?
           
JACQUES MARTIN: Yeah, I think as I stated in my first sentence when I made the fact that I want our club to improve. If we trade Jay Bouwmeester, we need to have somebody in return to help our club going down the stretch.
 
            Q. How much belief is there in the organization right now that you guys could sign Bouwmeester before the trade deadline?
            JACQUES MARTIN: I don't know how much belief. I think that what's important is to look at all our options, and whether he signs between the trading deadline or not, I think that we're investigating to see what's available for him, and we'll make the decision in due time.
 
            Q. If you do decide to trade him, would you be willing to offer any other general manager a window to negotiate with him to sign him?
            JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think it depends on the situation. I think we have to see whether we have a deal in place, and then we would make that decision.
 
            Q. When was the last time you talked contract with him?
            JACQUES MARTIN: I've talked contract with him on a continual basis. I think that we've kept the communication fairly open.
 
            Q. He's one of the quietest players that any of us will ever meet in the NHL. How would you describe him to people who don't know him?
            JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think Jay is very professional. I think that even when you look at the contract situation, I think he's come this year and is giving us some tremendous hockey. He's competed on a nightly basis. He's been one of our better players. He's gone about his business. He has a contract, and I think what people have to realize is there's many other players that are in the same situation as Jay Bouwmeester. You look at the Montreal Canadiens. I don't know how many players are going to be free agents at the end of the year, and I think it's probably something we're going to see on a more regular basis under the new CBA, the fact that more players are becoming free agents at a young age.
 
            Q. Can you tell us how the status of your negotiations with Jay Bouwmeester have changed from the beginning of the year and what effect, if any, the success your team has had this season has had on those?
            JACQUES MARTIN: I don't think the negotiation with Jay is for public knowledge. I think you have to respect the privacy between a club and the individual agent, so I don't think I'm in the liberty of talking about our negotiations. I think negotiations have been good, but I think that's something that I don't want to do on the public table. It's no different than any other players; I think when you're talking about negotiation, I think that should be done on a private basis.
 
            Q. Having seen this team about 60 games this season and having coached them in the past, what type of players are you looking to add to this roster before the deadline to strengthen your playoff push?
            JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think first of all, it's important to get somebody that's going to fit into the chemistry. I think that we have a great chemistry as a team. I think we have a good balance of young players versus veteran players. I think that we've improved our defense a great deal over the last three seasons. I think when you look at the mobility of our back end, you look at the production, I think we're still No. 1 from getting some production from the defense.
            I think if there was any areas that we would like maybe to improve, it would be maybe at the center position. I think that's something that if we could improve, or even the depth of our forwards, that would be something we would look at.
 
            Q. Considering Jay's status, have you received many phone calls inquiring about his services?
            JACQUES MARTIN: Regarding Jay, I think I've been in continual contact with general managers. We've talked about Jay with certain teams, no different than any other top players on our hockey club.
 
            Q. And about the negotiations, has he expressed a willingness to remain with the organization?
            JACQUES MARTIN: I think, as I said before, I think you have to respect the privacy of the player and the privacy of the organization, and I think we've had several communications, several talks in the last season, and I think that's something that should remain private.
 
           Q. Do you feel that Bouwmeester needs to be a part of this team to challenge in a playoff run, and how much would it affect the team chemistry if he's lost?
            JACQUES MARTIN: Well, I think, as I said earlier about Jay, I think it all depends on what we could acquire in return. I think if it's a package where we feel that we improve our hockey club, I think the rest of our organization, the rest of our players I think would recognize that. And that's why I said, we're going to make ?? we'll go forward with Jay in our lineup if we can't get something that helps us now, and if we do get something that we feel is more beneficial for our hockey team, then I guess I would be willing to change the chemistry.
 
          

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