- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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MONTREAL -- Randy Sexton deserves to have the "interim" tag dropped from his GM title after the move he pulled off this weekend at the NHL draft.
Doug Risebrough appears to be the front-runner for the Panthers job (Doug MacLean, Neil Smith and Jay Feaster are also in the mix), but Sexton, it says here, should get some consideration, given Saturday's trade.
In trading Jay Bouwmeester to the Calgary Flames for Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick, Sexton somehow got solid value in return for the defenseman, who the entire hockey world knew was going to walk into the open free-agent market Wednesday. A 2009 third-round pick might not sound too sexy to the average hockey fan, but half a dozen other GMs we spoke to Saturday saluted Sexton for getting a tangible asset.
"A third-round pick is a lot," one GM said.
"An unconditional third-round pick is, to the best of my knowledge, the best anybody's ever gotten for somebody who's going to go UFA," Sexton said. "We felt we had to get some intrinsic value. And when there's nobody else in the race, it limits your negotiating position.
"So we held tight for as much as we could get. And, at the end of the day, we felt it was important to do a deal and get some value instead of none."
If Sexton is able to sign pending UFA blueliner Leopold, the other asset Florida got in the deal with Calgary, that's icing on the cake.
"For our organization, it was a critical day," Sexton said. "When it became apparent we couldn't sign Jay, we wanted something of value. We worked very hard over the last two weeks to put together a deal."
Bouwmeester seemed even-keeled Saturday when asked about the trade in an interview with ESPN.com.
"I was very aware of all the rumors, so to say it was a surprise, I'd be lying," Bouwmeester said after a round of golf with family. "I half-expected for something to happen."
When Sexton lost the Flyers as a dance partner (Philadelphia was hot to trot on Bouwmeester but went another route and grabbed Chris Pronger on Friday), the Panthers were a little worried.
"We were well along the way with three teams, but they were all in these other deals," Sexton said. "So 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 [Calgary GM] Darryl [Sutter] and I shook on a deal."
The deal was consummated at 9:30 a.m. ET on the draft floor. And, as Sexton revealed, Panthers fans were lucky they got this past season out of Bouwmeester, whose camp told the Panthers of his intention to exit a long time ago.
"About 18 months ago, they gave us a list of teams they were interested in, and Calgary was right at the very top," Sexton said. "He's an Alberta boy, and Darryl is an aggressive guy. He's clever, he's creative. I think he'll find a way to get [a deal] done."
Sutter, for our money, has taken a worthy gamble. He gave up a solid asset for a short, five-day window of exclusivity with Bouwmeester. But given the amount of interest that would come on the open market for the 25-year-old stud blueliner (15 teams contacted Florida about Bouwmeester this week), Sutter was smart to give himself a private audience for a few days, and that audience led to Calgary and JayBo reaching a five-year deal before Wednesday.
Sutter downplayed the Alberta angle.
"I don't think that has any bearing on it," he said. "If it did, then everybody in Edmonton and Calgary would be playing in Edmonton and Calgary."
"If I was even an average defenseman, I'd want to play on a defense that had Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf," Sutter said.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.