To borrow a refrain from Eugene Melnyk, buckle up because we’re going all the way… to delve into hockey’s annual buzzworthy event that isn’t the impending NHL trade deadline. Yes, I’m talking about overage collegiate free agency!
With the NCAA seasons wrapping up, expect an influx of unrestricted collegiate free agent prospects to be scooped up by NHL teams over the course of the next few days or weeks.
For organizations, this represents an ample opportunity to restock their prospect cupboards with more physically mature prospects that typically have smaller learning curves.
Now not every prospect will turn into a productive entity. For every Andy McDonald, Cory Conacher, Dustin Penner or Justin Schultz, there’s a Bobby Butler, a Matt Gilroy and even a Jesse Winchester.
That’s not to say that the latter three players did not have any redeeming skills, they had some utility. But what these players lacked in talent or consistency, they served as placeholders until some of Ottawa’s draft picks developed and were ready to contribute at the NHL-level.
Considering the state of the defence last summer, it was not a surprise to see the Senators make such a heavy push for Justin Schultz. Cynics can bemoan the audacity or the manner in which last summer’s Schultz process dragged out and the unfair expectations it created, but adding more depth for what essentially amounts to opportunity and money is a no-lose situation.
Besides Schultz, the Senators were also linked to Western Michigan University defenceman Danny DeKeyser last season. Ultimately however, DeKeyser opted to return to school for his junior season.
And According to Bob McKenzie, the Senators are aggressively in the mix for his services.
Some think top contenders for DeKeyser are DET, STL, ANA and EDM but multiple teams have high interest. PHI and OTT will be pushing hard too— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 24, 2013
I’ve penned a few articles discussing DeKeyser and his game (that you can read here and here), but it’s worth reiterating that the Red Wings have widely been considered the favorites because DeKeyser’s a Michigan native who has been teammates with Red Wings Assistant GM Jim Nill’s son.
Looking at some of the other interested teams and their place in the standings, Ottawa may be in tough trying to woo him. Detroit may be trending down as an organization, but they’re still in the playoff mix in the West. Anaheim has a 12-point lead on the Los Angeles Kings for the Pacific Division crown and St. Louis is a young team that came within three points of winning the 2011/12 President’s Trophy. And Edmonton’s that mismanaged organization that continues to fail in efforts to support and surround its revered collection of young talent.
But, you just never know. If there’s one thing Senators fans have learned over the course of this season though, it’s to never count Ottawa out.