Dollars and sense for Bouwmeester

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Darryl Sutter obviously wasn't bluffing when he said his club would re-commit to defence.

Not only did the Calgary Flames GM just hire one of the top defensive-minded coaches in the game, he followed it by using his first round pick Friday to draft a blueliner.

However, what may turn out to be his biggest statement -- and potential coup -- came yesterday when he acquired the rights to Jay Bouwmeester, one of the most complete defencemen in the game today.

While the obvious question now is whether Sutter can sign the 25-year-old Edmonton native before he becomes an unrestricted free agent Wednesday, the much bigger question is why the former Florida Panthers mainstay would do such a thing.

As of today, the six-year veteran is just three sleeps away from the day every star player (and his agent) dreams of: A day when doors are open for any team in the league to throw as much money at you as they want.

And in Bouwmeester's case, they'll throw boatloads -- far more than the Flames could or will throw his way in the next 72 hours.

None of this is to suggest the perennial league-leader in minutes played has no interest or little chance of signing with the Flames. He just might, but it makes little sense to do so before the midweek sweepstakes begin.

It bodes well the Flames were one of a handful of teams on the list of desired destinations he gave to the Panthers as the beleaguered club looked to salvage something for their departing asset. He's also an Albertan who'd love to get back to Western Canada, where hockey matters.

If he's the type who wants, above all, to win, Calgary would be a brilliant choice, too, as his signing would not only give the club three potential Team Canada defencemen, it would instantly catapult the Flames into a top five Stanley Cup contender.

While some wonder why he'd want to play third fiddle after being a longtime go-to guy, it needs to be pointed out he'd instantly become Calgary's No.-1 rearguard.

While Dion Phaneuf is an offensive gem and Robyn Regehr is amongst the very best in snuffing out top-guns, Bouwmeester serves both ends of the ice at the very highest of levels.

A man of few words, the theory also goes he doesn't have the ego or desire to be a rah-rah type in the dressing room -- he'd rather leave that to others while letting his play do his talking.

In that vein, veteran-laden Calgary is also a good fit.

Surely he's impressed with the fact Calgary shelled out a third-rounder for four days of exclusive conversations. He'll also likely be flattered a team with two world-class defencemen thought enough to try shoehorning him into their group.

All that said, it makes little sense to sign with the Flames before Canada Day, when the only thing more spectacular than the fireworks are bound to be the numbers thrown his way by teams league-wide. Suffice it to say, $7-million a year would be the absolute starting point for an open-market deal that could top $8 million.

Accepting a Flames offer before Wednesday would mean leaving untold millions on the table.

As Sutter said yesterday, he has no interest in the inflated world of free agency July 1. That includes Bouwmeester, who the Flames can't win a bidding war for.

Having shed the annual salaries of Adrian Aucoin ($4 million), Mike Cammalleri ($3.6 million) and yesterday's dispensing of Jim Vandermeer ($2.3 million), Sutter is correct in suggesting anyone with Grade 10 math can see there's money to sign Bouwmeester to a sizeable deal.

However, the player will likely wait until after July 1 to sort through his options before giving the Flames a chance to close the gap and convince him Calgary is his best bet.

Regardless of the outcome, there's little downside in Sutter's attempt to nab Bouwmeester early. The pick he gave up was replenished a day earlier with a third-rounder from Jersey. Handing over negotiating rights to Jordan Leopold is irrelevant.

Once again, Sutter was the talk of the draft with a savvy move that could pay off bigger than any other deal at this year's draft.

At the very least, it gives Flames fans a four-day thrill ride that has the city dreaming of what could be.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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