MONTREAL - Darryl Sutter hopes he's done shopping.
The Calgary Flames GM made a big splash at the NHL draft Saturday by landing the rights to Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester, the jewel of the upcoming free agent class.
Sutter says if he manages to get Bouwmeester's signature on a contract before free agency opens Wednesday, his off-season work will be largely finished.
"Everybody we want under contract we have under contract," Sutter said. "Now we have to get (Bouwmeester) under contract."
That would mean impending unrestricted free agents Mike Cammalleri, Todd Bertuzzi and Adrian Aucoin will be allowed to hit the market, but in Sutter's eyes adding Bouwmeester would definitely make up for those losses.
The thought of having Robyn Regehr, Dion Phaneuf and Bouwmeester on defence is very tantalizing to Sutter, and he hopes Bouwmeester feels the same way.
"He's a good enough player to understand the type of team we have and the type of defence that we have," Sutter said. "To be able to play with guys like Dion and Robyn for a long time, to me that's pretty significant."
Sutter gave up a third round draft pick and the negotiating rights to impending free agent Jordan Leopold in the trade, and he won't need to send any further compensation to the Panthers if he signs Bouwmeester to a contract.
Sutter spoke briefly with Bouwmeester's agent Bryon Baltimore shortly after the trade was consummated Saturday morning and said he hoped to meet with him Sunday.
Florida interim GM Randy Sexton believes the Edmonton native will sign with the Flames.
"About 18 months ago they gave us a list of teams they would be interested in, and Calgary was right at the very top," Sexton said. "He's an Alberta boy. Darryl's an aggressive guy, he's clever, he's creative. I think he'll find a way to get it done."
Sutter said there should be no salary cap troubles in signing Bouwmeester as the Flames have over US$10 million in available space.
"Obviously we wouldn't have made that deal if we didn't think we had the room to sign a couple of players," he said.
Sutter created some of that salary cap room Saturday when he shipped defenceman Jim Vandermeer to the Phoenix Coyotes to re-acquire rugged winger Brandon Prust, who was part of the deal that brought Olli Jokinen to Calgary at the trade deadline.
Though the trade cleared $1.8 million in salary off the books, Sutter says the move wasn't made to create space to accommodate a contract for Bouwmeester.
"It had nothing to do with making the trade today at all," Sutter said. "It had to do with the injuries we had last year and the (defencemen) we brought up that showed they can play with our sixth or seventh guys."
As for the draft itself, the Flames focused their attention on forwards by selecting four with their five picks on Day 2.
The most promising would appear to be third-rounder Ryan Howse of the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins, who the Flames traded up 10 spots to land at No. 74 overall. Howse, who led the Bruins with 31 goals last year, was ranked 37th among North American skaters, up from 51st at mid-season.
Also chosen by the Flames were:
-winger Henrik Bjorklund of Farjestad in the fourth round;
-winger Spencer Bennett of Surrey in the BCHL in the fifth round;
-Finnish goaltender Joni Ortio in the sixth;
-Saskatoon Blades centre Gaelan Patterson in the seventh.
But the results of the draft won't be known for years, and Sutter hopes he's taken care of the Flames immediate future by securing the negotiating rights to Bouwmeester.
"We've had interest in Bouwmeester for a long time," he said. "Now we have to see if we have the ability to make something happen."