1) Firstly for the uninitiated, J-Bow is Florida star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester who has been the center of numerous trade rumours the past two seasons. Many have been writing/speculating about where he might be off to. In the fall most thought he was going to Ottawa, Toronto or the Rangers, but neither team apparently stepped up with the right price. What is for certain is that many teams are desperately in need of a puck-moving defenseman, so a Bouwmeester trade should theoretically get the Panthers a nice return.
2) However the fly in the ointment for interested teams in the fact that the Panthers have clawed themselves out of the Eastern Conference cellar to back into the playoff picture (currently in the 8th spot). Jay is having a very solid season with 11 goals and 27 points to go along with playing an average 27:20 minutes/night. Easily leading the team. So why all the rumors if Jay is so valuable? Easy, he's an UFA following this season. So the Panthers would have to decide if they gamble and retain Bouwmeester, hoping he leads them to the playoffs (for the first time in 8 years) and subsequently resigns with them this summer, or trade him before losing him for nothing after July 1st
3) So we decided to ask our south Florida sources what they think is going to go down. What we heard surprised us. We were told that a trade is far from likely. That the Panthers and Bouwmeester have in fact resumed negotiations and it wouldn't surprise them to hear about a long term deal (5+ years) announced even before the March 4th deadline. We're told that Jay is having as much fun playing as he has had in several seasons in Florida. He gets along well with rookie head coach Pete DeBoer and we're told is excited to see the team finally break through and make the playoffs.
4) Another factor we're told is that Boumeester saw what a circus other teams' media can be when he was at the All Star game in Montreal last month. Jay is not the most outgoing type, and can be described as shy/reserved, so the situation in South Florida where he can go almost anywhere without media/fans hounding him is to his liking. One agent told us that he thinks that the attention he received from the media asking about trade possibilities/contract talks, etc really opened his eyes as to how good he has it where he is. While its not a done deal our source(s) now believe its far more likely that Boumeester will finish out the season in Miami. Whatever happens there will be loads of pressure on GM Jacques Martin to either get Jay signed or get equal value back, especially after the lack of return in the Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen trades. Many including us believe this issue will decide Martin's future in South Florida