MONTREAL -- Randy Sexton, acting general manager of the Florida Panthers, held court after the 2009 NHL Draft was completed and revealed the backstory of the Jay Bouwmeester trade to the Calgary Flames this morning.
The Panthers had been working on the trade for several days, and yesterday's trade of Chris Pronger(notes) to the Philadelphia Flyers seemed to have altered their plans in several ways. Two keys for the trade, which saw the negotiating rights to Bouwmeester go to Calgary for the rights to Jordan Leopold(notes) and a third-round pick (67th overall), which the Panthers used to draft right winger Josh Birkholz.
1. Sexton said that an unconditional third-round pick was "the best anyone's gotten for a player that was going to go UFA," so that plus a free-agent player is a win for the Panthers ...
2. ... Especially since the Pronger trade put the Panthers is a very weak negotiating position with other teams; not only because the Flyers were one of Jay Bouwmeester's(notes) suitors, but because the trade reset the market.
Coming up, Sexton's take on the trade and the rest of the trades that didn't happen at this draft.
Sexton spoke about the Bouwmeester trade, and how it went down:
"For our organization, it's a critical day, right? When it became apparent that we couldn't sign Jay, we wanted to get something of value. We worked very hard over the last two weeks to put together a deal. Things were moving quite well. Yesterday, everything got blogged down. (Ed. Note: Actual quote, and hilarious.) Teams were in on every deal. They were in on Lecavalier. They were in on Hossa. (Ed. Note: Huh?) They were in on Pronger and all of it. We were well along the way with three teams but they were in these other deals.
"When the Flyers did their deal for Pronger, it kind of knocked them out of the box. We went back last night, we regrouped, put together another game plan, came in today, talked to three or four teams and Darryl and I shook on a deal at 9 or 9:30."
Was there ever a chance the Panthers were going to sign Bouwmeester?
"We agreed after the season to take two or three weeks, try to decompress after the season. I chatted a couple of times with his agent, and at that point it was clear that they wanted the opportunity to exercise his free agency rights. About 18 months ago, they gave us a list of teams that they were interested in. Calgary was right at the very top. 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."
Sexton said that when the team "agreed we weren't going to trade him," that list of teams was "stuck in the bottom drawer."
Is the package from the Flames what the Panthers were hoping for?
"We felt all along there was no free looks. We wanted to have something of value for the quality player he is. We tried hard to get a second round pick but no one was willing to pony up. We settled on a third and we had a deal with several teams on a third. What varied was the different amount of compensation if he signed. When everything went sideways last night, we had to adjust. You have to have more than one horse in the race to leverage out something."
"We like Leopold too. We're going to try and sign him. We think he's a mobile, puck-moving guy and a good replacement for Jay."
Things changed for the Panthers when Philly made its Pronger trade.
"When Philly did the Pronger deal, it adjusted two things: It adjusted a key player for us, and it adjusted values. All the other teams were at lower values. That's why you didn't see a lot of guys move. Bryan [Murray] felt strongly that Heatley's a quality player, but the offers he was getting didn't meet what he felt. The Pronger deal set a certain expectation about the value that should be derived."
In retrospect, would this trade have been better at the deadline?
"It's always easy to look in the rearview mirror. We were a long way down the road at the trade deadline, but we didn't feel we had the value required to trade Jay. What's more, we were right in the thick of the playoff race. Our coaches, our players and our fans wanted us to keep him. We thought it was important for the franchise to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, we lose in the second tie-breacker and we lose Bouw. That's life."
From the Panthers on Twitter: "Leopold just said he was open to anything and him and Ballard actually played golf on Wednesday and joked about playing on the same team.