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Jay Bouwmeester, left, and Flames GM Darryl Sutter talk to reporters Wednesday at Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome. ((Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press))

Defenceman Jay Bouwmeester celebrated Canada Day in his native Alberta with family, friends and the Calgary Flames.

Bouwmeester, 25, was welcomed aboard Wednesday by the Flames, who signed the Edmontonian to a five-year contract worth $33-million US.

"All my family and friends are pretty excited about it," he said. "Some people give you a hard time because it is Calgary."

Had he not reached terms late Tuesday, Bouwmeester would have become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday at noon ET.

"We had no intention of waiting for today," Flames general manager Darryl Sutter said. "We prioritized the position and the player.

"We talked a lot of different ideas for him in terms of longer, shorter [contracts]. But what it always kept coming back to was this was the market he wanted to play in."

"It just got to the point where I was totally comfortable with things here," Bouwmeester told reporters at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"It probably wouldn't have really mattered what else was out there. I liked the situation.

"I cannot really explain it. It is just one of those things [where] you just kind of know."

Calgary acquired Bouwmeester's negotiating rights at last Saturday's NHL draft in return for the rights to fellow defenceman Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick.

Known as a workhorse, Bouwmeester brings durability and mobility to Calgary's defence corps, which already boasts Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich.

"That is what was one of the things that was real attractive here," Bouwmeester said. "You look at the solid group of guys they already have … it seemed like it would be an easy place to slide in and, hopefully, have some success."

'It is about young players'

Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, Regehr, Sarich, netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, captain Jarome Iginla and forwards Olli Jokinen and Daymond Langkow account for roughly $44 million US of Calgary's player payroll.

With the NHL's salary cap set at $56.8 million US next season, that leaves little else to re-sign unrestricted free agents like Adrian Aucoin, Todd Bertuzzi, Anders Eriksson, Carsen Germyn, Andre Roy and Rhet Warrener.

Mike Cammalleri, also an unrestricted free agent, signed Wednesday with the Montreal Canadiens for $30 million US over five years.

"We're not walking away on anybody but, at the same time, the philosophy doesn't change," Sutter said. "It is about young players."

Players like Bouwmeester, a perfect fit for Calgary's blue-line blueprint.

"You can put him in any situation — power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5, 4-on-4 — and because he is such a smart player and such a great skater, he brings a lot of things to the table," Flames head coach Brent Sutter said. "He has a great understanding of how to play when the team doesn't have the puck and how to pay attention to detail."

Bouwmeester had spent his entire NHL career with the Florida Panthers, posting 53 goals and 150 assists for 203 points in 471 games since being drafted third overall in 2002.

He had 15 goals and 42 points in 82 games last season.

With files from the Canadian Press