Jay's one happy Flame

Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester goes for a skate at Perry Pearn's 3 on 3 Hockey Camp in Edmonton...

Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester goes for a skate at Perry Pearn's 3 on 3 Hockey Camp in Edmonton on Monday. (Sun Media/Derek Van Diest)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

As perhaps the biggest fish in the free agent pool this summer, it seemed unlikely Edmonton product Jay Bouwmeester would be landed before weighing all his options.

But then the Calgary Flames made the 25-year-old defenceman an offer he couldn't refuse.

"I just didn't really feel I had to wait," said Bouwmeester, currently taking part in Perry Pearn's three-on-three conditioning camp at the K of C Arena.

"I was comfortable with everything. If you do wait, it can turn into a bit of a gong show. I'm glad it got done and I was able to get it over with."

Bouwmeester signed a five-year, $33-million deal with the Flames, just a day prior to becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The Flames traded for his negotiating rights from the Florida Panthers two days earlier and were under the gun to sign the budding star.

"I was looking to be in a place where hockey was more of a focus," Bouwmeester said.

"It's a good city. I knew they had a good team, I know some of the guys and the kind of character they have.

"There were a lot of questions answered negotiating with them. That made me feel as though I really didn't need to go search around."

Landing the six-foot-six, smooth-skating defenceman was a huge coup for Flames general manager Darryl Sutter, who now has a pair of Norris Trophy candidates on his blue line in Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf.

Add rugged Robyn Regehr to the mix and Calgary can boast as solid a back end as there is in the league.

"I know both those guys, and I'm sure we'll all have our role. If we all buy into it, it should be good," Bouwmeester said.

A former third-overall pick -- who was touted to go first but for a late deal made by the Florida Panthers at the 2002 NHL Draft -- Bouwmeester has never played in an NHL playoff game.

He spent six seasons with the Panthers, who were eventually forced to deal his negotiating rights to Calgary when it became apparent he wasn't going to re-sign in Florida.

The Panthers were keen on keeping Bowmeester on their blue line, but his decision to leave was more than financially motivated. As was his desire to play in Calgary.

"It's different, only because hockey is more of a focus here," he said. "In Florida it's sometimes a battle to get people out to the games and it's something that's not really natural down there."

Bouwmeester is expected to reunite with Flames star Jarome Iginla this week. The pair are among a number of local pros taking part in Pearn's two-week conditioning camp.

"I know him a little bit having played with him on a few (national) teams," Bouwmeester said. "What you see is what you get with Jarome. He's a good guy, a good leader.

"Having a guy like that on your team kind of calms everything down and he's just a real valuable piece."


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