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While it may not be as exciting as next week’s trade deadline, the College Free Agent signing season is now underway. At the moment the Lightning seem to be faring the best, landing the 6’8 Czech Andrej Sustr, a player that as many as 25 NHL teams were looking into, including the Leafs.

The new target on the blueline could now be Danny DeKeyser, a 6’3, 186lb. American from Western Michigan University.

Of course, the Leafs and Ducks aren’t the only teams rumoured to be in the mix

Why is DeKeyser so special? Here’s what Terry Murray had to say about him (via The Hockey Writers):

“He’s a really smart player. He’s a great leader, has a great stick, plays with some physical bite and makes good decisions with the puck. My feeling is, from my experience in the league, that he’s certainly capable of being an NHLer. When that happens, I’m not sure, but he’s capable.”

Here are his career numbers (via HockeyDB):

Season

Team

Lge

GP

G

A

Pts

PIM

2008-09

Trail Smoke Eaters

BCHL

58

8

17

25

12

2009-10

Sioux City Musketeers

USHL

41

1

10

11

12

2010-11

Western Michigan University

CCHA

42

5

12

17

43

2011-12

Western Michigan University

CCHA

41

5

12

17

42

2012-13

Western Michigan University

CCHA

35

2

13

15

22

While everyone is in hot pursuit of this player, I remain somewhat ‘meh.’ The Leafs have been fortunate with the acquisitions of Tyler Bozak and Ben Scrivens in the sense that they have been able to establish themselves as proven NHLers who have not necessarily set the league on fire. And both would be considered best case scenarios for any College UFA. In fact, the hot pursuit of DeKeyser might be best compared to the league wide courting of the can’t miss kid Matt Gilroy, who never evolved past being a second power play unit quarterback or depth defenseman. Expectations need to be similar to that. This is not Justin Schultz, who was drafted and then proceeded to dominate in the NCAA.

The Leafs have been active in College Free Agency in the past, and after Bozak and Scrivens the success rate falls off significantly as Spencer Abbott and Simon Gysbers have only been marginal AHLers and Tyler Brenner and Brayden Irwin were complete tire fires.

That being taken into consideration, all you are really risking is one of your Standard Player Contracts (limit of 50) and a spot on your AHL or ECHL affiliate. Not a huge loss, but when you look at the Marlies blueline for next season it becomes a challenge to get ice time for Percy, Blacker, Holzer, Granberg, Nilsson, and potentially Andrew MacWilliam if the Leafs choose to sign him when the University of North Dakota’s season comes to an end.

I’d be content to see what success the Leafs can have with what’s already in the system knowing that Rielly stands a good chance of making the Leafs next season, and Matt Finn will be ready to join the Marlies after a final year of junior hockey.

As for the rest of the College Free Agency watch list, check out Chris Peters’ list of who’s available and who’s been taken over at the United States of Hockey. If you want to read Peters’ review of DeKeyser check it out at Eye on Hockey.

If the Leafs are pursuing any other NCAA Free Agents, I’d assume that the 6’4 winger Antoine Laganiere from Yale would be the front runner, but the three unaffiliated Hobey Baker candidates (Leblanc, Walters, and Hartzell) might receive some consideration as at least solid help for the Marlies next season.

DeKeyser’s decision is expected by the middle of the week.

 

Monday Morning Links…

The Burden of Expectations (Five Minutes for Fighting)
A good look at why Kulemin is valuable and should remain a Leaf.

Who will be the Next Leafs Captain: Lupul or Kadri?(Vintage Leaf Memories)
I would certainly keep Phaneuf as captain through this contract and his next with the Leafs, then if things go as well all hope Morgan Rielly can take over about 5-6 years from now. No pressure.

Jonas Siegel recaps the win over the Bruins (TSN)
The monkey is off the Leafs back, but doesn’t make Monday night’s game any easier. As noted in the post, Mark Fraser wound up eating most of Liles minutes.

Liles is out for Boston (TSN)
Seems like this brings Kostka back in a for a game or two, but Liles’ injury is not as bad as it looked.

Luongo falls outside of the Leafs Top 3 Goalie Options (Hockey Writers)
I disagree with this post, as the best option for the time being is to stand pat. The goalie market is likely to be wide open in the summer if the Leafs want to address the position then. Reimer and Scrivens have a great cap hit for the goaltending they provide and that could be an asset as the cap drops next season.

Brenden Morrow is a Penguin (Puck Daddy)
The Stars acquire a more promising Morrow (Joe) in the deal.

Kovalchuk is out 2-4 weeks (Puck Daddy)
Hopefully this gives the Leafs a little more breathing room in the standings. It’s unlikely he’ll play against the Leafs on April 6th, and potentially might not be back for the game on April 15th.

Iginla submits the list of teams he’d accept a trade to (Backhand Shelf)
Leafs aren’t on it and if he is traded to Bruins it’s unlikely it will happen before Monday night.  No real worries unless the Leafs meet one of these teams in the playoffs, but that doesn’t seem so bad because we’ll be in the playoffs.

The Frozen Four Bracket (College Hockey News)
Since the Frozen Four is complete crap shoot I’ll expect my prediction of Minnesota to be out in the first round. I’m not a big fan of single elimination hockey tournaments.

An introduction to fancy stats (Jibblescibbits)
I stand by the fact there’s nothing too fancy about these stats and that they are a great way of providing context when accompanying what you have seen in viewings. If you want to learn more about these stats, this is a great starter post.

Here’s a generic “Value of Kessel” HFBoards thread that will make you weep for humanity.

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