Prospects Signed

Colaiacovo, Upshall, Bowumeester, Nash, and Garth Murray.

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Panthers agree to contract with D Jay Bouwmeester


SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) – The Florida Panthers agreed to terms Monday on a three-year contract with defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, their first-round pick and the third overall selection in the 2002 draft.

Details of the pact were not released.

Bouwmeester had to reach an agreement with Florida by 3 p.m.

EDT in order to play in the NHL this season. If not, he would have spent the season in juniors.

The 6-4, 210-pound native of Edmonton, Alberta collected two assists in six preseason games with the Panthers.

“Because we’ve been in the middle of negotiations it’s been difficult to express just how impressed we’ve been with this young hockey player,” said Florida general manager Rick Dudley.

“He truly is as good a prospect as I’ve seen in many years.

It will be fun to be associated with this evolving talent.”

Bouwmeester, the top-ranked North American prospect and a smooth-skating offensive-minded defenseman, had 11 goals and 50 assists in 61 games for Medicine Hat in the Western Hockey League last season. He was one of only four players in Canadian history to appear at the World Junior Championships at the age of 16.

Already with the size to make it in the NHL, Bouwmeester may step right into the lineup for the Panthers, who ranked fourth from the bottom in goals-against with 250.

Blue Jackets sign No. 1 draft pick Nash

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Rick Nash, the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, to a three-year contract Monday potentially worth more than $12 million.

If he hadn’t signed by Monday, Nash would have returned to his junior team, the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Nash’s base compensation will be about $1.2 million a year, the rookie maximum. He could make up to $9 million more in incentives over the life of the deal.

“I’m just thrilled to get the deal done,” the 18-year-old Nash said. “It took awhile, but it was best for both sides. I’m really happy with the contract and my main goal was to get it done and make the team.”

The Blue Jackets sent their first-round pick to the Florida Panthers as part of a deal that allowed Columbus to move up and select Nash.

The left wing, from Brampton, Ontario, had 32 goals and 40 assists with London last season.

He had three goals and three assists in the preseason for Columbus, which opens the regular season Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Nashville announced the club has signed forward Scottie Upshall, the team’s first selection (sixth overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The 5-11, 184-pound Ft. McMurray, Alberta native finished second in scoring with 83 points (32g-51a) and logged 139 penalty minutes with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. Upshall tied for the Predators team lead with five points (1g-4a) in five games in the 2002 preseason.

Rookie defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo signed a three-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday that could pay him over $10 million US if he meets all of his bonuses.

Colaiacovo, who impressed the Leafs at training camp with his unexpected play, will earn the maximum salary allowed for rookies of his 2001 draft class, $1.13 million US this season, but can earn a whole lot more if meets certain performance bonuses.

The deal was reached less than an hour before the 3 p.m. EDT deadline to sign junior-aged players to NHL contracts.

“I don’t think there’s any better feeling to get everything done and over with,” an overjoyed Colaiacovo told The Canadian Press moments after the agreement was reached. “I’m very happy with the whole situation. What a feeling, starting the season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I’m just going to keep living every day the fullest.”

Colaiacovo, 19, had 13 goals and 27 assists in 60 games with the OHL’s Erie Otters last season. That’s where he would have returned had the Leafs not signed him Monday.

Instead, he’ll be in Leafs uniform Thursday night when Toronto opens the season in Pittsburgh.

“The only thing I’m thinking about right now is joining the team in West Virginia,” Colaiacovo said from nearby Burlington, at the office of his agent Todd Reynolds.

The Leafs have a three-day sojourn in Wheeling, W.Va., before heading to Pittsburgh.

Colaiacovo, who played for Canada’s world junior team last January, surprised even himself with his play in training camp and the pre-season.

Toronto’s first pick, 17th overall in 2001, had three goals and three assists in six exhibition games and looked confident with the puck on both ends of the ice.

“I cannot believe the way this has ended. I conquered the greatest expectations of myself at this training camp,” Colaiacovo said. “My goals going into it was to make an impression on the organization. I think I’ve done more than that.”

The Rangers also announced Monday that the club has agreed to terms with forward Garth Murray on a professional contract. Murray, 20, skated in 62 contests with the Regina Pats of the WHL last season, tallying 33 goals and 30 assists for 63 points, along with 154 penalty minutes. He also registered one goal and three assists in nine post-season games with Hartford (AHL).