SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $4.875 million contract with defenceman Jay Bouwmeester on Monday.
Sources tell TSN that the Panthers were interested in a longer term deal, but Bouwmeester wanted to do a one-year deal because he can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2008-09 season.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Jay," Panthers general manager Jacques Martin said in a statement. "He has played an important role on our team over the last five seasons, logging significant ice time while contributing at both ends of the ice.
"While we recognize that arbitration was an option, we were always confident we would reach a mutually acceptable contract with Jay. We look forward to his continued growth and future contributions to our organization."
Bouwmeester, 24, played in Florida's 82 games last year, ranking first among NHL defencemen in ice time (27 minutes, 28 seconds per game). He also recorded a career high 15 goals.
The six-foot-four, 215-pound defenceman has certainly been durable, having played in all 82 games for Florida the past three seasons.
Bouwmeester has played in 389 career NHL games, all with Florida. He has 38 goals and 123 assists with 261 penalty minutes.
The Panthers drafted Bouwmeester, a native of Edmonton, third overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.