I don't know about you, but I can't wait until the players finally hit the ice for training camp, the pre-season and inevitably, the regular season. October 4th is circled on my calendar, as that's the day when the league begins the season over in Europe (Stockholm & Prague) and we can finally put stories from the boardrooms and negotiation rooms to bed. Until then, however, we must plug away at what we have for hockey news and that's signings, trades, buy-outs and well, rumours.
I think if there is one player that could out duel Mats Sundin for the 'most anxious story yet to happen,' it would be restricted free agent defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. Suffering in the sunbelt, the young defender (24-years old), has had a hard time making a huge name for himself, the way he should have by now, since he was touted as one of the great young prospects to be drafted. Sadly, the team in Miami never really materialized around him and he has had to settle for mediocrity in his career. This summer, however, it could all change.
Negotiations with Bouwmeester have been rumoured to be tumultuous, at best. The reports over the weekend say that he had rejected a huge long-term offer from the Panthers and the best likelihood will be that the team will trade him before it's all said and done. Saying that, the Panthers will likely ask for the farm for Bouwmeester, which agreeably, most teams will likely make that move, because Bouwmeester does have the value of a small farm.
Bouwmeester set a career-high in goals last season with 15, but his career-high in points happened a couple seasons ago at 46 points (he only had 37 last season). There is plenty of scoring potential for the young Edmonton native, which makes his potential move to a better scoring team a great pool interest.
As a restricted free agent, he is set to become one of the better paid defenders in the game as well, which some teams will have to do some creative bookkeeping to have him. I had seen teams like Boston, San Jose, Dallas and a few others, seemingly in the mix for Bouwmeester, which seems a tad silly for all three. None of them (at the moment) could possibly afford the big table offer that he'll want, which seems a tad fruitless. Unfortunately for teams that need a big salary (i.e. Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Long Island, Columbus), they don't really have what the Panthers would be looking for in a deal, unless there are a ton of good picks available.
Moving away from Florida and back to the friendly (snicker) confines of Toronto, it looks like the Mats Sundin sweepstakes is the biggest domino to fall on the summer's transactions. Sure, there was a lot of talk that the bigger name stars of the free agent frenzy was going to set off a lot of moves, but that seemed to be exaggerated.
Teams like Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto all seemingly have Plan B's in place, if they don't get the services of the big Swede in the coming days. Vancouver is looking at Antoine Vermette and Brian Gionta (rumoured, of course), while Montreal could go after Teemu Selanne and then Toronto will take just about anyone who has a heartbeat and wants a no-trade clause. Once the winner of the Sundin sweeps is declared, these Plan B's could fall shortly after, since we're already heading into August and GM's have an itchier trigger finger, moreso than years previous.
Also in the Plan B department, if your team didn't land Brian Campbell or doesn't land Jay Bouwmeester, then how about paying some possibly overpriced monies to defenseman, Mathieu Schneider, who will likely be the Duck voted off the island, due to salary cap concerns.
Schneider will be a cap hit of $5.625 million this coming season, but you do get a good chunk of talent for all that dough, it has to be said. If the Ducks are to unload Schneider, that will give them some more breathing room around the cap ceiling, which they have been staring intently at since the free agent frenzy began. However, moving Schneider may not be enough to quell the team's fear of going over the cap limit, but he is a good start.
Finally, there are very few other players making waves in the rumour mill at the moment, but some unrestricted free agents that draw some interest would be the newly bought-out, Glen Murray, Ladislav Nagy, David Vyborny and Marek Malik. There is some mild pool interest in these players, but not a lot, thanks to the good influx of young talent that has emerged in the league.