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Could Bouwmeester leave Florida after next season?

From George Richards of the Miami Herald:

The Panthers hold out hope Bouwmeester can be locked in for more than one season, although if the two sides do make it to arbitration, the longest contract Bouwmeester could be awarded is one year (for next season). That would leave the Panthers in a precarious situation. If Bouwmeester signs for only next season, he would become an unrestricted free agent after the 2008-09 season.

Florida’s risk in keeping Bouwmeester through next season is seeing him walk away at the end of the year — with nothing coming back in return. Bouwmeester is thought to be asking for a financial deal similar to one struck by Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf last season. The Flames locked in their All-Star defenseman for an average of $6.5 million over the course of the six-year contract.

Read the entire article here.

Unless the Panthers break the bank for Bouwmeester, I would be surprised if he agreed to a long-term contract. The slick-skating defenseman seems to want out of South Florida and the appeal of unrestricted free agency a year from now is probably too much for him to pass up.