Florida currently sits in 8th place in the conference with several games in hand over several other rivals for the post-season performance. The Panthers were picked by many hockey experts to finish aroudn the bottom of the league , espeacilly after the controversial Jokinien trade. So up until this point in time , it was mostly thought that Bouwmeester would be dealt to a contender at the deadline . This is no longer the case , as Florida has shocked the hockey world by playing a tight defencive game that has managed them to shut down opposing teams . While their offence has managed to be a far more formidable threat then previously thought of. Though not exactly pouring it on with 128 GF in 45 games , which averages out to a 2.84 GPG. That combined with their defencive play has led them to their 21-16-8 record and current spot in the conference.
That all being said , the question of what's to be done with Bouwmeester comes once more to the minds of many. Bouwmeester currently has 10 goals for 26 points and a +4 in 45 games. Which is a very good number for a young defenceman who is barely 25. He obviously is an integral part of the Florida success , and Florida needs him to maintain their success. Bouwmeester though, is a UFA as of July 1st and will have no qualms or quarrels over leaving the Panthers for greener pastures.
So once more the hockey world and Florida in particular is wondering what can be done . To my mind their are few options available , many of which are unlikely . But I will present what in my opinion is available to the GM.
Option One: Martin somehow finds a way to convince Bouwmeester to remain a Panther , with the arguement that Florida is a contender and their current success is proof of that . With perhaps the signing and trading for several key players at the deadline .
Option Two: Martin at the deadline deals Bouwmeester to a contender for a healthy return and uses that to keep the Florida in the playoff hunt . With the additional hope that Bouwmeester is still a free agent come July 1st , and make a pitch to him then.
Option Three: Martin retains Bouwmeester without extending him in the hopes of making a playoff run ,and signs a few other key free agents and gains some via trade. After the post-season , and if they indeed make it . Martin once more attempts to sign Bouwmeester at the free agency with the arguement of being a contender.
Just to give my two cents on the matter , I find only the first or second option available or feasible . The first ,as perhaps Bouwmeester would be willing to stay if he thinks that Florida has a future and is convinced of Martin's sincerity in building a contender . As for option two the most likely to happen in my opinion . I can see Bouwmeester being dealt to a contender who can make use of his skill in the playoffs, though not in particular re-signing with the Panthers if he leaves. As someone is bound to over-pay.
Well that is my opinion on the matter , what do you think will happen?