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Jay Bouwmeester Speaks: ''Mixed Feelings" ... NOW! With Randy Sexton and Jordan Leopold

Bo2 MONTREAL -- Haven't been able to get Jay Bouwmeester on the phone myself, so I did the next best thing: I listened in on his interview with Calgary's 960 The Team.

Bouwmeester, who is playing golf right now, says he has a lot of friends in teammates with the Panthers but sounded ready to leave South Florida.

''I have mixed feelings,'' he said. ''It's the only place I've ever played and I have a lot of good friends, good teammates there. Anytime you leave a place it's difficult. But at the same time, there's a lot of unrest in the organization, a lot of turnover.

''This has been an ongoing thing. Once things get sorted out, it'll settle down. People move on pretty quickly.''

Jay wouldn't commit himself to the Flames, but did say he and his agent would sit down with Calgary's management on Monday and get to work on getting something done.

Of course, this was Jay Bouwmeester at his best. Nothing committal, nothing too interesting. But a solid interview, as usual.

''I'm going to wait and see,'' he said. ''There's time to sort things out, I'm not in a rush. I haven't talked to anyone yet. We have to sit down and see what's up.''

-- UPDATE: Here's the raw copy for my Jay/Leopold wrapup story for tomorrow's Miami Herald...

For another view on the JayBo situation, check out Yahoo's Puck Daddy who has been following this story as long as I have and was down on the draft floor with myself, Steve X and Davy Gravy from the Panthers website to talk to Randy...

BY GEORGE RICHARDS grichards@MiamiHerald.com

MONTREAL – Jay Bouwmeester was going to be a former member of the Panthers soon enough, but on Saturday, the team moved him out of town a few days early.

Bouwmeester, a free agent July 1, was traded to the Calgary Flames on Saturday morning after acting general manager Randy Sexton shook hands with Darryl Sutter and agreed to a deal. Florida received a third round draft pick and the exclusive negotiating rights to defenseman Jordan Leopold in exchange for the negotiating rights to Bouwmeester.

Both Leopold and Bouwmeester can be free agents on July 1 and sign with any other team if they don't agree to a deal with their new teams. Florida selected Josh Birkholz with the third round pick it received from the Flames.

''We think this was a critical day for our organization,'' said Sexton. ''When it became apparent we couldn't sign Jay, we wanted to get something of value. We worked very hard over the past two weeks to work out a deal. Things were going well, then yesterday, everything just got blogged down. .-.-. We felt along that there would be no free looks. We wanted something of value because of the quality of player. We tried to get a second round for that look and no one bit.''

Bouwmeester has long been rumored to be wanting out of South Florida and his reluctance to sign a long-term deal with the Panthers over the past few years all but proving that point. Florida could have traded Bouwmeester at the trade deadline and received more, but then-general manager Jacques Martin decided what was being offered wasn't worth losing a top player during a playoff hunt. It's a decision that backfired in hindsight.

''It's always easy to look in the rear view mirror,'' Sexton said. ''We were a long way down the road at the trade deadline but didn't think we had the value that was required to trade Jay. What's more, we were right in the thick of the playoff race. Our coaches, our players, our fans, everyone wanted us to keep him. We felt it was important to make the playoffs.

''Again, we did what we thought was in the best interest of the franchise and unfortunately we lost on the second tie-breaker and we lose Bo. That's life.''

Bouwmeester, who is a native of Edmonton, told a Calgary radio station that he was ready to sit down with the Flames and talk about a new deal. But, talk is as much as Bouwmeester would commit to.

''I'm going to wait and see,'' he said. ''There's time to sort things out, I'm not in a rush. I haven't talked to anyone yet. We have to sit down and see what's up.''

The Panthers made Bouwmeester the third overall pick in the 2002 draft after trading down from the top spot knowing he would still be there. In the days leading up to the draft, it was apparent Florida was going to use the top overall pick on Bouwmeester. The 25-year-old played six seasons with the Panthers and has played in 346 straight games -- the longest current run in the league.

But Bouwmeester was obviously disenchanted with the direction of the franchise, and despite his resume (two All-Star Games and a spot on Canada's 2006 Olympic team), Bouwmeester has yet to play in an NHL playoff game. The Panthers have been outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2000, the second-longest drought in NHL history.

Now, the team is for sale and doesn't have a permanent general manager. Coach Pete DeBoer will enter his second season.

''I have mixed feelings,'' he said. ''It's the only place I've ever played and I have a lot of good friends, good teammates there. Anytime you leave a place it's difficult. But at the same time, there's a lot of unrest in the organization, a lot of turnover. This has been an ongoing thing. Once things get sorted out, it'll settle down. People move on pretty quickly.''

The Panthers hope to lock down Leopold soon and hope they have an edge in doing so as the 28-year-old is friends and former teammates with Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard. On Saturday, Leopold said he and Ballard played golf together in Minnesota on Wednesday and joked about Leopold potentially coming south. The two played together at the University of Minnesota.

Leopold and Sexton say they haven't spoken, although Sexton said he traded text messages with Leopold's agent during Saturday's draft. The two planned to speak Saturday night in Montreal.

''I was sleeping when I got the news, so that's funny. It caught me off guard a little bit,'' Leopold said from Minnesota. ''Anything can happen. This is a business. We'll move forward. I'm just taking this in. I don't think I can make a fair assessment because I haven't talked to the team yet. They're working the draft, I understand that. I'm sure when things are over with, my agent will meet with their staff and discuss some options. I have open ears. This is a new opportunity for me.''

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