Panthers' Bouwmeester awarded two-year deal

TORONTO -- The Florida Panthers are going to have to
pay a lot more for defense the next two seasons.

The Panthers took a hit on Wednesday, when an arbitrator awarded
defenseman Jay Bouwmeester $4.35 million over the next two

Bouwmeester, 22, will make $2.1 million next season and $2.25
million for the 2007-08 campaign.

The ruling is a huge pay increase for Bouwmeester, who earned
$946,000 last season, when he recorded career highs in goals
(5), assists (41) and points (46) and played in all 82 games.

The third overall pick in the 2002 draft, Bouwmeester has
collected 11 goals and 71 assists in 225 career games.