On Tuesday, they announced they had signed the 25-year-old Edmonton native to a five-year, $33 million deal. The annual cap hit is $6.6 million a year.
With free agency opening today, the Calgary Flames have two months until training camp, and questions abound about what the Flames face this summer.
The Flames, with the Bouwmeester signing, have an estimated $4 to $5 million in cap space. This will be eaten quickly, and the Flames have needs to fill.
Starting with free agents, the Flames have a few players they need to get under contract, and a few that will walk.
Dustin Boyd is a restricted free agent, and Darryl Sutter's history suggests a good value deal between $4.5 and $6 million over three years, a $1.5 to $2 million a year cap-hit, definitely acceptable.
The first UFA is Adam Pardy. A Group Five UFA, Pardy played great last year and deserves a raise. With Bouwmeester, Regehr, Phaneuf, and Sarich all signed long-term, Pardy may play some top four minutes, or might relish the chance to with this defence. It’s hard to predict.
Mike Cammalleri won’t be back. The diminutive goal scorer was great for Calgary last season, and will be hard to replace. But he is due a raise, and Calgary just doesn't have the cap space. He will be chased and definitely overpaid.
Todd Bertuzzi is another story. He played well for the Flames, despite some injuries, and was worth $2 million. The question is how much does he want? Bertuzzi has said a one-year deal is all he expects.
If he can play for $1.5 million or less, he should be back. If he wants more, or gets a better offer, he might not. As a veteran, he might be more reliable than the young players that will have to fill his spot if he does not return.
Andre Roy and Adrian Aucoin have played their last games for the Flaming C, and Rhett Warrener will retire due to injury.
From there, we go to what the team needs. The Bouwmeester signing changes the makeup of the Flames and the depth chart has different holes to fill.
Centre is a position of strength and abundance for the team, with Jokinen, Langkow, Conroy, Boyd and Primeau all in the NHL, and Mikael Backlund waiting in the wings. Trading Primeau could free up some room, and if Backlund makes the team, there will have to be moves.
The wings are an area of concern.
Right wing is anchored by Jarome Iginla. After him, it’s a crap shoot. Rene Borque will be on the top two lines, somewhere. Curtis Glencross is around and David Moss is ready for more minutes. Eric Nystrom is young and cheap, and Kyle Greentree's 39-goal season in the A, might mean he is NHL ready.
The first line has no left winger, where a resigned Bertuzzi could step into, with Jokinen and Iginla. The second line is Langkow, Borque and maybe Backlund or Moss. The third line would consist of Boyd, Conroy, and Glencross, and Nystrom, Greentree, and Primeau being the fourth line.
Prust will fit somewhere, especially if Primeau gets moved. Expect Sutter to shuffle the lines with abandon.
After Iginla, no one on the wings is a threat, but with no cap room, that won’t change.
Defense is the club's strength. With a top four of Regehr, Phaneuf, Bouwmeester, and Sarich, the Flames are the deepest team on the back end in the league. With Pardy's potential return, Mark Giordano and several prospects ready to make the jump, the team could be devastating defensively.
Keith Aulie, Matt Pelech and John Negrin all saw time with the team last year, and could step up.
In goal, Kiprusoff should be playing 65 games this season, with Curtis McElhinney promised 15 or so starts. With a rejuvenated defence in front of Kipper, he should return to his 2003-04 and 2005-06 form.
A team strong down the middle and strong on D, with a superstar named Iggy and a mix of youth and experience, what could there be questions about?
Well, the coaching staff has a combined two years experience at the NHL level.
Two years. Combined.
Brent Sutter has never won a playoff round, and none of his assistants have coached a game in the NHL.
Sutter already has the room's respect, and McGill, Lowry, and McLennan were all hard working NHLers that didn't take what they had for granted. That lunch pail mentality is what the Flames have lost in recent years, and something that needs to be brought back.
The questions going into the offseason are offence, coaching, and the salary cap.
With Cammalleri gone, the Flames need those goals to come from somewhere.
Jokinen can score, but if the Flames find themselves in a jam and need cap space, he could be on the move. Fortunately, Backlund appears ready to step in, for much cheaper than Jokinen’s $5.25 million.
Finally, just how much youth will play this year? Potentially, Backlund, Greentree, Aulie, Pelech, Negrin, Chucko, Sutter, and more could all appear with the team this year, as young talent is cheap talent, and the Flames need cheap talent.
Heading into the season, the Flames are contenders for the Cup. Other than that, who knows?