It won’t be long.
In fact, it’s probably already started.
WMU’s 3-1 loss to North Dakota on Saturday afternoon signaled the end of its season — and the beginning of an NHL feeding frenzy that will swallow Danny DeKeyser. Like a giant harvest moon, a question — the question — hung above everything the Broncos did this season.
Is Danny going to leave for an NHL deal?
Now, the question must be answered.
Prior to the NCAA tournament, DeKeyser was reportedly 50-50. And it makes sense: he probably wanted to see how his team would do in the tournament. Now, thanks to the help of a formidable North Dakota opponent, it’s decision time. Maybe he knows without a doubt what he wants to do. Maybe he doesn’t.
But until we know, here are few thoughts and angles to consider:
- DeKeyser’s agents (officially called “family advisors” since he’s still an amateur) will probably encourage him to sign now. They will cite uncertainty over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that the NHL and NHLPA will negotiate this summer (the idea being that their client should get his money now before the salary cap shrinks). His agents will also cite the potential for injury and the overall uncertainty and risk of the unknown by waiting.
- The NHL season ends two weeks from tonight. A club could sign DeKeyser, pay him a healthy signing bonus, have him play three or four NHL games and — here’s the kicker — burn a year off his entry-level contract. So a three-year deal — required for rookies — would, in effect, be two. And teams like that, because it gives them more flexibility.
- Conversely, had the Broncos made a run all the way to the Frozen Four, DeKeyser would have the bargaining power. The sense of urgency among NHL clubs won’t be the same in April as it is now, because their regular seasons will be over and they can’t pay any bonuses or salary.
- Why DeKeyser should stay: most NHL clubs don’t think he’s ready, physically, for the NHL. They’ll sign him, but they’ll likely send him to the American Hockey League for a year so he can develop. Who knows? He might not mind. But if he stays for his junior season, he’s more likely to walk directly onto an NHL roster if he leaves after next year — especially if he shows signs that he’s gotten stronger.
- Why DeKeyser should go: this life is so short. Say what you want about his agents’ scare tactics, but they’re right. Something could happen. And now that he’s won a CCHA championship, the next achievement would be an NCAA title. Unfinished business, to be sure, but a lot has to go right for that to happen.
- Another reason: He needs to play more games. NHL and AHL teams play twice as many as the NCAA. That’s a grind and DeKeyser’s career in the long-term would benefit from experiencing it now rather than later.
So if he decides to leave, one other question remains.