Midway through the 2008-09 season, it seemed as if Florida’s all-star defenseman and upcoming unrestricted free agent, Jay Bouwmeester, would leave the Panthers as soon as it was possible and not look back. But as the lockers got cleaned out in Sunrise, Bouwmeester talked about keeping his options open. Kinda.
“I guess until anything’s done, it’s always a possibility,” said Bouwmeester, when asked about returning to the Panthers. “Right now, you need to take some time and just step away and evaluate things before you make any decisions.”
Bouwmeester made it clear he wants to play for a contender. Or at least a team that makes the playoffs once a decade. With Jay disgruntled and probably leaving the organization, the fans of teams around the league frothed at the idea of winning the 6-foot-4, 212 lbs.blue liner at the trade deadline. But that wasn’t the case. Florida General Manager Jacques Martin entertained the idea of shopping Bouwmeester, but with the Panthers on the verge of getting their first playoff berth in a decade, Martin kept him. Now, instead of clean up with prospects and draft picks, the Panthers missed the playoffs and will likely lose Bouwmeester for next to nothing. The ultimate lose-lose.
“Yes, Jacques’ job is safe for certain,” Panthers’ owner Alan Cohen confirmed in a letter to the Miami Herald. “He has made the team and the farm system better. Hopefully we keep doing that.”
But going for broke to reach the playoffs is admirable, albeit silly in retrospect. But it doesn’t seem like Bouwmeester was impressed enough to stick around.
“I don’t know. Down the stretch here, there’s been a lot on your mind,” he said about the possibility of his returns. “To be quite honest, it’s something I’m going to have to sit down and do some serious thinking about. For me to say one way or the other right now is not really fair.”
The Flyers were one of the teams gunning for Bouwmeester at the deadline, rumored to offer number-one prospect James vanRiemsdyk, Joffrey Lupul and a number one draft pick. But Martin, who scouted a number of Flyers’ games during that time, declined, and now, it seems, General Manager Paul Holmgren will simply have to make cap space to fit the rear guard if he does become a UFA.
Bouwmeester is looking at anywhere from 6-8 million a year, but he is worth every penny. He is a big, shutdown defender who can score with ease and almost never gets hurt. He has played in 363 consecutive games, and if the Flyers have any say, his 364th will be in orange and black.