A thought about the Panthers' lone All-Star, Jay Bouwmeester. Much has been made about his status as a Florida Panther this season, and as we head into the final 36 games of the year, one wonders how many of those contests Mr. Bouwmeester will be wearing the Cats' uniform. I, for one, hope it's less as opposed to more.
What?!? Am I crazy?? Possibly. Probably. But here's the grim truth. The best we Panther fans can hope for is he sticks around the rest of the season, gets this team in the playoffs, before splitting for big bucks and a big city. He wants to play in the postseason, something he has yet to do since he was drafted in 2002. Watching and listening to Bouwmeester at the All-Star game made it pretty clear to me, he wants the attention of a big hockey market, he wants to be in a city that cares about its hockey more then it cares about its sun tans. He wants to be elsewhere.
So where does that leave us? He's been the consummate professional this year, filling interviews with only the vaguest of answers, doing his best on the ice, leading this team towards a possible playoff berth. And why shouldn't he? If GM Jacques Martin doesn't trade him before the March 4th deadline, Bo will need an impressive resume when the bidding begins for his services in the offseason. He's a free agent come summer, and that's the killer. The Cats have to, have to, get something in exchange for a player of this caliber. If they wait til summer, they'll get squat.
So what does Florida need? I think that's obvious. Scoring. A proven, post-season, pressure time scorer. What do we have to give up? One of the best defenseman in the league. Sounds like a trade made in heaven. Teams reportedly intersted include Montreal, Ottawa, and Washington. I think they might have some scoring to give up. The good news is that Florida can probably (hopefully) live without J-Bo. The offseason moves by GM JM almost seem to have been made almost as if he knew this was coming... Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton, Karlis Skrastins, and Jassen Cullimore are more than just decent defenders, they have proven to be solid playmakers. With the solid play of Noah Welch lately, they might even have 6 solid defenders, should they lose J-Bo.
We'll see what happens. Obviously, I hope I am completely and totally wrong about all of this, that Florida hangs on to Bouwmeester, they make an improbable playoff run, Jay decides he likes the sun and 70* weather in January, and signs a deal to stay in Sunrise. Unfortunately, getting nothing in return for the services of one of the league's top D-men is a scenario that seems much more likely if no trade is made. Until then, let's just hope he keeps performing and pushing this team towards the top 8.