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Flames pick up Bouwmeester, but keeping him will be a challenge

Jay Bouwmeester now belongs to the Calgary Flames. It remains to be seen if he'll still be a Flame on July 2.

Calgary GM Darryl Sutter bit on Florida's low-rent asking price Saturday morning, sending his third rounder and impending UFA defender Jordan Leopold to the Panthers for what amounts to less than a week's worth of exclusive negotiating rights to the world-class blueliner.

The trick now is to make the most of that time.

Signing him won't be easy. Sutter will have to knock the socks off Bouwmeester's agent, Bryon Baltimore, to keep him from exploring free agency on July 1, the course of action the pair has planned all along. That means something like a decade-long deal with an average cap hit somewhere in the $6.5-$7 million range. That's a hefty chunk of change in and of itself, but even more problematic considering what looks to be a tight cap situation in Calgary.

It appears as though the Flames will have at least $9.3 million coming off the cap on July 1 when the contracts of Adrian Aucoin ($4 million), Mike Cammalleri ($3.35 million) and Todd Bertuzzi ($1.95 million) expire. That creates enough room for Bouwmeester, but creates several other holes, especially up front where the Flames have just four legitimate top-six forwards (and that's four only if you believe Rene Bourque's breakthrough 2008-09 season was a sign of things to come and not just a flash in the pan).

Former first rounder Mikael Backlund ($1.3 million) will compete for one of those jobs, but that's asking a lot of the rookie who only came to North America after the 2009 World Juniors. It's more likely that Sutter will have to bring out the whittlin' knife to carve himself a bit more room to hire experienced help. That could mean trading Cory Sarich ($3.6 million) or Jim Vandermeer ($2.3 million) or possibly burying a player or two in Abbotsford of the AHL (that could be you, Wayne Primeau).

Easy? No...but workable. Of course, it all depends on Bouwmeester. If he's determined to explore his options, none of this deck shuffling amounts to anything.

Still, it was the right move to make. The Flames had two third rounders, so they were playing with house money. And given how badly they needed a shakeup after another one-and-done playoff effort, this was a bold move that speaks loudly to their desire to address the back end deficiencies that sank them last season. And you never know: the chance to play under Brent Sutter, a systems-oriented, defensive-minded coach might be enough to sway the Alberta native to forego the bidding process.

Should be an interesting couple of days.

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