SUN Hockey Pool

Flames' capital investment

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Jay Bouwmeester knows he has stepped with both feet into the great Calgary-Edmonton rivalry.

Having signed with the Flames -- a five-year, US$33-million pact -- the blueliner from the provincial capital has already taken some heat from friends.

No problem, pointed out Flames GM Darryl Sutter.

"Jarome will back him up," Sutter said.

That would be Jarome Iginla, the Flames captain who hails from the Edmonton satellite city of St. Albert.

Of course, fellow Edmontonian Dion Phaneuf could also take that role. Or Daymond Langkow.

"Yeah, there's lot of guys," Bouwmeester said. "I don't think that will be a problem."

But while so many from Bouwmeester's hometown were questioning why yet another player from Northern Alberta wants to spend his winters in the Stampede City, there are other questions to ask of him.

- Why ink a deal within 24 hours of becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career?

- Why, after doing so, take less money than he could have received on the open market?

- Why change a plan that seemed to be in place for the last year?

"The fact it was Calgary made me seriously think about it," Bouwmeester answered yesterday.

"After meeting with Darryl and Ken (King, the Flames president), I came out of there feeling comfortable with the situation. If I didn't think it was a good fit, it probably wouldn't have happened.

"I came out of there real comfortable and really happy. Absolutely no regrets."

Bouwmeester, who'll turn 26 in September, said he loved the thought of playing for a successful team with a core of proven players, and in a city where hockey is king.

All that is opposite of what he's experienced in six seasons with the Florida Panthers.

"Being from the area, you know the attitude about hockey around here. It always seemed, from an outsider, an attractive place to play," Bouwmeester said. "The fact I know guys like Jarome and Robyn (Regehr) and what kind of people they are and I talked to a few guys and know how excited they were about the team and things going on here ... It's a decision you have to make, but it was not really a hard one."

Obviously not, seeing as the Flames acquired his rights -- and exclusive negotiating privileges -- Saturday by sending the rights to free-agent defenceman Jordan Leopold and a third-round draft choice to the Panthers, and then hammered out a deal by Tuesday night.

Bouwmeester, who'll wear No. 4 and will surely be part of the list of NHLers unveiled today when Hockey Canada announces it's invitees to its summer orientation camp, has collected 53 goals and 203 points in 471 career games.

He's played all 82 contests in all but one season, and is coming off a 15-goal, 42-point campaign.

However, he's yet to play a NHL playoff game.

This finally gives him a golden chance.

"It's exciting for me. I think the prospects are here for having a good year. They've had good teams the last while and hopefully, I can add another dimension," he said. "The attitude here is not just to try and make the playoffs, it's to try and win a championship. That's all you can ask for."

What remains to be seen is what the Flames forward corps will look like.

The opportunity to add a big-bucks, top-six forward doesn't exist and Sutter said yesterday he's not planning to trade one his team's big-contract players away.

"We're not subtracting," he said. "Why would you bring in an ace, one of the top defencemen in the league, and subtract from your roster?"


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