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The Saddledome is Now Home: Jay Bouwmeester Signs With Flames ... Panthers Lose Another One

Jaybocalgary Cross Jay Bouwmeester off the list of coveted free agents come tomorrow as the 25-year-old former Florida Panther is going back to his native Alberta (that's in Canada, eh).

According to our pals at TSN, Bo signed a five-year deal with the Calgary Flames just days after the Panthers traded his rights to Darryl Sutter and Calgary for a cap hit of $6.6 million per.

Bo now gets close to home as he is from Edmonton (which is to Calgary what Orlando is to Miami. Only colder. And no mouse).

Good for the Flames. They didn't listen to the naysayers (OK, Jay's agent) who said Bouwmeester wanted to be a 25-year-old free agent and test the waters.

And there's no doubt the Panthers got hosed.

If Jay's agent told Randy Sexton a few weeks ago that he would talk to teams, then it leaked that "you can do what you want with Florida, but Jay isn't signing anywhere until after July 1,'' and then Jay ends up signing with Calgary on June 30 anyway, well, that's pretty crummy.

But it's a business and Jay and his agent owed the Panthers nada. And that's about what the Panthers ended up with.

Truth is, Jay's agent told the Panthers there were a bunch of teams he would rather play for than, you know, the Panthers 18 months ago.

So the Panthers got hosed, and for the most part, it's their own doing. But how they got hosed in the end, well, they had some help there.

The Panthers -- OK, Jacques Martin -- should have dealt with this earlier. And I don't mean at the trade deadline. By then it was too late, the team needing him too much. No, JM the GM should have done something last summer when Jay once more refused to sign long term. JM had Bo's NHL Sears Wish Book in his desk drawer; what more did he need?

What could the Panthers have gotten for Bouwmeester at the 2008 draft? A lot more than a third round pick and the rights to Jordan Leopold for sure. A lot more than what they got in return for Olli Jokinen (although, that deal worked out pretty well). How about a Jokinen/Bouwmeester package? What would teams have surrendered for that?

Well, Calgary's got 'em both now. Florida did get that third round pick Phoenix gave to Calgary when Jokinen went to Alberta at the deadline. That was nice irony.

As for JM, he doesn't have to answer those questions now.

He's in Montreal, far away from the problems in Florida. Are the Panthers better today than they were when he took over as GM? Yeah, I still say so. But the Panthers got nothing for a premier defenseman and by the timeline Randy Sexton gave us, they knew this was going to happen a long time ago. The Panthers have given up three franchise-type players and haven't gotten anything close to their value in return. Florida got some good players back, yes, but at cents on the dollar.

We could say this latest fiasco is going to cripple the Panthers, but that would be too easy to say. Heck, the Panthers missed the playoffs with Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester. They can easily miss them again without them.

As far as Jay goes, he and his agent could have helped the Panthers out. They were of no obligation to do so, but Jay is a very rich man because of the Florida Panthers. He's even more wealthy today. But Florida laid out some serious jingle to Jay over the years.

But he never wanted to be here, money or not.

I often enjoyed dealing with Jay, and I'm not one who thinks the media pressure up there will be too much for him to handle. The media will not be Jay's problem, he can handle that just fine as he showed here, on Florida's tour of Canada earlier this past season and his marathon sessions at the All-Star Game (where, he never once ripped the Panthers but did talk about his desire for more stability down here and would have liked to see more of a hockey atmosphere in South Florida).

No, the media won't be Jay's problem; the other parts of living in Calgary just may be.

No, not right now. Jay's enjoyed much of his offseasons in Alberta, and I'm sure these lazy summer days were a big reason he wants to play there. No, things will change during the heat of hockey season. What's going to happen if/when the Flames lose 3-2 to Edmonton and Jay is on the ice in the final minute and somehow flubs the puck which finds its way past Kipper?

Talking to the media after the game? Oh Jay will do that, he will be the first one in the room to face the music.

But how about after the game when he wants to find a nice quiet place where no one knows -- or even cares, for that matter -- that's he's Jay Bouwmeester? Good luck with that. You've heard how the grass isn't always greener? Well, Jay's going to find out whether it is or not. His lifestyle is about to change. Hopefully, for his sake, it will be for the better. But one never knows until you are in that position.

It's obviously a position Jay's been wanting to be in for a long time. He wanted the spotlight, he's got it. Some guys run to the limelight. I don't think Jay is one of those guys, but he may just enjoy being The Man in a place where he can truly be appreciated.

He and his dad have their wish: Jay Bouwmeester is a Florida Panther no more.

The Panthers? They'll move on, just like they always do.

Weaker, yes, but moving on nonetheless.

It's July 1. Lets see what happens today.

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