Everyone knew this day was coming, we just weren't sure how exactly it would go down. Jay Bouwmeester (or more specifically, his rights) were traded to the Calgary Flames early this morning in exchange for the Flames 3rd round pick (67th overall) and free agent defenceman Jordan Leopold.
When the Panthers failed to, or chose not to trade Bo in March, everyone knew the reality. The Cats were hoping Bouwmeester would push them forward into the postseason before packing his bags for free agency. The playoff push came up short, and that sinking feeling that we would not only miss the playoffs, but lose Bouwmeester for nothing started creeping in. The only hope was to trade his rights at the draft. Because let's face it, something is better than nothing. Now J. Bo gets reunited with Olli Jokinen and will create quite the pairing with Dion Phaneuf (they were #1-#2 in ice time last season). I can only imagine that the BAC faithful will be nothing but polite to Olli and Jay if\when they return to south Florida with the Flames next season...
Jordan Leopold will become a free agent on July 1st, so there is no guarantee that he will be a Panther next season. However, one would assume Florida knew this risk and had talks with Leopold to gain some insight into his frame of mind before pulling the string on the deal. He's a solid defenceman in his own right, and could fit in well with the Panthers, should he decide to sign. A top 4 of Brian McCabe, Bryan Allen, Keith Ballard, and Leopold is not too shabby. Throw in Karlis Skrastins and Steve Eminger, and it's a solid top 6. If Keaton Ellerby, Jason Garrison, or Dmitri Kulikov mature in time... Bouwmeester might not be missed too badly.
Not to be overlooked, the draft continues on. The Panthers chose center Drew Shore with their 2nd round pick (44th overall). Filling a need in center, Shore was ranked as a late 1st-early 2nd rounder by most analysts. He has "potential" written all over him, but will need a few years to grow into an NHLer. He is expected to play for the University of Denver in the fall.
With their earlier acquired 3rd round (67th overall) pick, the Cats selected Josh Birkholz. The gritty winger has no problems playing a physical game, but will also spend the next year or two in the college ranks. He has commited to the University of Minnesota.
The Panthers don't pick again until the 5th round (#135).