Random Prediction: Jay Bouwmeester To The Maple Leafs For Lots Of Money

I’ll probably do an NHL Free Agency Predictions post closer to July 1st, but in the meantime, I keep reading rumors about the Flyers being interested in Jay Bouwmeester, which makes theoretical sense, but through no investigative avenues other than basic logic, I can’t imagine a situation in which Bouwmeester doesn’t immediately end up with the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason.

The Flyers currently have an ungodly $54.926 million committed to the cap for the ’09-’10 season, with no relief in sight; Kimmo Timmonen is locked up through 2013-14 at a passable $6.3 mil annually, Daniel Briere is owed an absurd $6.5 mil per season through 2014-15, and Mike Richards is locked in for varying cap hits from $5.4 to $8.4 million over the next eight years, with his overall contract not expiring til 2021, or sooner if the earth turns into a WALL-E-esque wasteland and humanity vacates the planet before then.

The Maple Leafs, conversely, have only $42.937 mil committed to the cap for 2009-10, with no cap hit larger than Pavel Kubina’s $5 million, which expires after this season. Toronto is the most valuable franchise in the NHL, they sell out every single home game, they have $15 million of cap space heading into the offseason, they have zero significant free agents to re-sign, and GM Brian Burke’s Ducks won a Cup in 2007 after Burke had signed Scott Neidermayer to a huge free agent deal then traded for Chris Pronger the following season.

Burke loves franchise defensemen. Jay Bouwmeester is by far the best defenseman on the market this offseason, and if you factor in that he’s only 25, probably the most valuable defenseman to go UFA since Zdeno Chara. The Leafs have tons of cap space and the added cachet of giving someone a chance to be the biggest star on the most prominent hockey city in the NHL; even if the Flyers Tom-Sawyer-bamboozle some other team into whitewashing Briere for them, they wouldn’t be able to offer as much money as the Leafs.

The prediction: Brian Burke makes his much-needed splash on the first day of free agency, locking up Bouwmeester for 7 years, $52 million.

That is, of course, if the NHL doesn’t let the Rangers unload Gomez, Drury, and Wade Redden on the Coyotes.

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