The opportunity to play close to Edmonton home and for a Stanley Cup contender was something that attracted Bouwmeester to Calgary from the outset.
"The attitude is not just to make the playoffs (in Calgary), but to try and win a championship and that's all you can ask for," said Bouwmeester, whose negotiating rights were traded by the Florida Panthers to the Calgary Flames Saturday. He signed a multi-year contract three days later. "You just want an organization that's stable from ownership all the way down. Being from Edmonton, I know what hockey is like around here and what a fixture it is. I know the area and how passionate the fans are and even though it was lot to digest in a short period of time, at the end of the day, it seemed to make sense and was a good fit."
He'll join what suddenly has become a very formidable defensive corps in front of All-Star goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, one that includes Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. All three, in fact, will be strong candidates to represent Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
"I think he may be the best all-round defenseman in the game at both ends of the ice, with the puck and without the puck, and that was important to us," Sutter said. "The fact he's just 25- years-old was also critical."
Sutter acquired Bouwmeester's negotiating rights after trading unrestricted free agent defenseman Jordan Leopold and a 2009 third-round pick (No. 67) to the Florida Panthers Saturday morning. Florida used the pick to take Fargo (USHL) right wing Josh Birkholz.
"When the trade happened, I heard the rumors that it was Calgary and it made me start seriously thinking about it," Bouwmeester said. "Then after meeting with Darryl (Sutter) and (Flames President/Chief Executive Officer) Ken King, I just came out of there feeling comfortable with the situation -- I have absolutely no regrets. Being from the area, you just know the attitude about hockey around here and it always seemed, as an outsider, to be an attractive place to play.
"It's a decision I had to make, but it wasn't really a hard one."
At the time of the trade, Panthers interim GM Randy Sexton was adamant his team receive fair compensation, and he believes that's what happened -- although as of Wednesday afternoon the club had yet to sign Leopold.
Bouwmeester had given Florida management a list of five teams he was willing to be traded to almost 18 months ago. The Edmonton native had played his entire six-year NHL career with the Panthers after being selected third by the club in 2002. Bouwmeester had 15 goals and 42 points in 82 games in 2008-09, and has 203 points in 471 career NHL games.
"Jay's a terrific player and we would have loved to re-sign him, but for anyone who's followed our team and Jay Bouwmeester, it's been fairly apparent for at least a season or two what his long-term intentions were," Sexton said. "Try as we might, we just weren't able to get something done and he wanted to exercise his right, which is entirely his right. We respected that so once he decided he was going to do that, we had to do what was in the best interest of the organization and that's what we did."
Bouwmeester and Sutter avoided unrestricted free agency by agreeing to a five-year deal worth $6.6 million a season Tuesday evening.
"It's not easy when you prioritize a player you want and make a trade for him and then try to come to an agreement in basically three days," said Sutter. "But it was fun and it's what we wanted. We prioritized this position and this young man and we're very happy to have him."
Bouwmeester has appeared in just one playoff series in the past 12 seasons -- in 2005, with the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves. But he did lead the League in average ice time (26:59) this past season, and he equaled a career high with 15 goals. He's also the NHL's reigning iron man having played in 342 consecutive games.
"We're pretty fortunate our defense has been durable, and to be able to bring in an ace at 25-years-old who can take care of a lot of situations was a big part of why we prioritized the position and this player," Sutter said. "We've been fortunate to give ourselves an opportunity (to compete for the Stanley Cup) every year and this is another huge opportunity for us. It's not just a short-term goal either, but a long-term one."
Bouwmeester is looking forward to having the opportunity to play for Brent, the younger of the two Sutters.
"I played in (WHL) Medicine Hat when he was in Red Deer all those years and he had a lot of success," Bouwmeester said. "I think he's pretty well-respected, and no matter who you talk to, they all think he's a good coach. We have a great group of players so I'm looking forward to the season."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.