Is Bouwmeester Final Piece Of Flyers' Puzzle?

Nelson SantosCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2008

The Florida Panthers and Jay Bouwmeester agreed to a one-year, $4.875 million contract on July 28.

This contract means only one thing. Bouwmeester is ready to leave Florida, and the Panthers have ensured they'll at least get something in return for the 24-year-old former third-overall selection.

Over the course of the 2008-09 season, Bouwmeester's name will be rumoured heavily in potential trades. One team that will surely make a serious pitch for the big, fluid-skating defenseman will be the Philadelphia Flyers.

During the offseason, Paul Holmgren has kept it no secret what area of his roster needs to be revamped if the Flyers hope to compete in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers are looking for puck-moving defensemen who can skate.

Holmgren started by trading R.J. Umberger to Columbus for the Blue Jackets' first- and third-round selections (19th and 67th overall). These picks were used to select Luca Sbisa and Marc-Andre Bourdon—two offensively-skilled defensemen.

This move was followed by a trade with the Washington Capitals, where the Flyers sent the 27th-overall pick to the Capitals for Steve Eminger and Washington's third-round pick (84th overall).

The trade for Eminger, along with the free agent signing of Ossi Vanaanen from the Eliteserien, will give the Flyers a defensive corps in training camp consisting of Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Randy Jones, Lasse Kukkonen, Ryan Parent, Eminger and Vanaanen. Add in Derien Hatcher if he is able to play—although it's evident the Flyers organization would love to free up some cap space with the announcement of his retirement.

With the Flyers unable to afford Brian Campbell, as well as losing out to the San Jose Sharks in the Dan Boyle sweepstakes, they are still in the market for a bona fide NHL-level puck-moving defenseman to compliment Timonen and Coburn.

Add to that Philadelphia's historic love of big men—and Jay Bouwmeester fits the profile to a tee, not to mention his rather affordable one-year, $4.875 million contract.

The only part of the equation left to be discussed is what would the Flyers need to send Florida's way to obtain Bouwmeester. With Florida trading away Ollie Jokinen to the Coyotes, it's apparent the Panthers are once again in re-building mode. This writer can't say he's surprised.

Most certainly, the Panthers would attempt to steal Claude Giroux or James Van Reimsdyk—but all signs point to those two young men being untouchables.

Holmgren could possibly offer a package of a first-round selection, Scottie Upshall, and maybe Steve Eminger—who played on a Memorial Cup winning team in Kitchener that was coached new Florida coach Pete DeBoer.

It's only a matter of time before Bouwmeester is no longer a Panther—but the question remains, will he be the final piece to Holmgren's puzzle?