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Florida Panthers general manager Jacques Martin was in attendance for Wednesday night's game between the Flyers and Kings, which either means the Flyers are very interested in Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, or the Flyers are very interested in Jay Bouwmeester.
For the record, Martin said he was in Philadelphia Wednesday night because his Panthers had the night off between games in Boston on Tuesday and New York tonight. What's curious is the fact Martin plans on returning to the Wachovia Center Friday night to see the Flyers play Montreal.
Sure sounds like a boss taking inventory before making his next purchase.
There's been talk for months now about the Flyers potentially picking up Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Personally, I've brushed a lot of it off as simple wishful thinking since the obstacles against such a move are so substantial.
First off, John Stevens has publicly said he is happy with the defense as presently comprised.
"I've said all along we're very happy with what's back there. We're very comfortable," the Flyers' coach said a few weeks ago. "I think our defense defends pretty well, and just because of the tradition here and the identity the whole organization has, people just assume that's what we're missing."
Despite that, though, conventional wisdom tell us that if you can make a move for a guy like Bouwmeester, you do it. No questions asked.
These rumors that Jay-Bo would be traded all started when Florida wasn't deep into the playoff picture. Losing a player of his caliber would seriously hurt their chances at making the playoffs, and Martin has said their first priority is to make the playoffs. It's a large possibility that the Panthers could just hold the guy now.
The only other reason for Florida to ship him out is that he's a free agent at the end of the season, and both camps have been unable to work out an extension. That's another reason for the trade rumors, since Florida obviously wants to get something in return for him if they are just going to lose him in July anyway.
If they do ship him out, the Flyers would have to outbid just about every team in the league. They have the roster depth to do so, but beating the offers of 28 other teams is a tough proposition, especially when you start to think about salaries.
It's no secret that Paul Holmgren and the Flyers are right up against the cap. It's ridiculously close once you return Danny Briere to the roster, just $480,833 under the cap.
So how the hell do the Flyers possibly get anybody, let alone Jay Bouwmeester, who has a cap hit of $4.875 million at the deadline?
Martin has said that the Panthers do not want to take on extra salary in a deal, so you've got to get rid of current roster players that have an equal cap hit to Jay-Bo. So who's in line?
That could mean right wing Joffrey Lupul, whose $2.3 million cap hit jumps to $4.25 million next season, along with defenseman Matt Carle, who has a $2.9 million cap hit this season, escalating to $3.5 million in each of the next two years and $3.8 million in 2011-12, or defenseman Braydon Coburn, who has one year left on a contract that carries a $1.3 million cap hit.
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As Have A Seat mentioned in a comment earlier today, would getting rid of a guy like Coburn really be smart? He hasn't played as well this season as he did last season, but he's still been a tremendous young defenseman for the Flyers. He's certainly outperforming his $1.3 million a year contract, and he's under that for another season before being a restricted free agent.
Losing Coburn or Carle, another young guy who has been excellent for the Flyers this season, would be a serious blow to the defense. These guys have been fantastic for the Flyers, and Bouwmeester needs to be a guy that adds to the defense already here, not one that is filling a hole.
And given their contracts, one of those defensemen would have to be coupled with another player; somebody like Lupul or Mike Knuble or Scottie Upshall, who are critical pieces of this teams offensive depth. The offensive depth is a big reason why I think the Flyers will be a force in the postseason, and trading some of it away makes me very nervous.
Add all of this to the fact that Bouwmeester doesn't have a contract past July. Trade all of that away for a rental player?
If the Flyers were not so close to the cap, they could give up some other talent that isn't so crucial to the team -- perhaps James van Riemsdyk or some other highly touted prospect. But the perfect storm that is the Flyers cap situation, coupled with Bouwmeester's lack of a contract would make me extremely nervous to make this deal.
As good of a rental player as this guy would be, and as much as I'd like to see him as a Flyer, I just don't think it's worth it. But damn, the idea of that guy in orange and black makes your mouth water doesn't it?