In order of importance, here’s what most college free agents like Tyler Bozak and Matt Gilroy look for when negotiating with NHL teams:
Column A: Cash
Column B: NHL icetime
Column C: The quality of the team’s arena, average attendance, whether it’s close to home, if the team is a perennial Cup contender, uniform coolness quotient, etc.
Actually, they rarely care at all about anything in Column C.
Brian Burke, first-year Maple Leafs President and GM, inherited a depth chart that is good news/bad news. The bad news is the Leafs hardly have any prospects, and they’re not selecting in the top 5 of this year’s draft. The good news is Burke can honestly look his college recruits in the eye and say, “Sign here, boys! Lots of cash and lots of NHL icetime right away.”
Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson – the top college free agents to sign so far – hooked up with Toronto. In reality, Burke didn’t need to sell them. College players have “representatives” (per NCAA regulations, can’t call them agents) who do the advance work for them. Bozak came to the right place.
Matt Gilroy, the defenseman from North Bellmore, could be next for the Maple Leafs. No one knows for sure. According to sources, Gilroy’s “people” told a handful of finalists, including the Islanders, that the focus of the 24-year old Boston University defenseman is completely on next weekend’s Frozen Four.
No one should expect a hometown discount. Gilroy will be 25 when training camps open in September. This is his one shot, and he’s not bound to the Entry Level salary cap. The Long Islander needs to do what he believes is best for him.
Last year, Jack Hillen signed with Garth Snow when the Islanders’ depth chart was, like the Leafs’, a good news/bad news proposition. Bozak, who listened to the Islanders, had to think about John Tavares or Matt Duchene, Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen at center.
The Islanders’ defense has an all-star in Mark Streit and shows some promise in Hillen and Bruno Gervais and maybe Victor Hedman, but Gilroy has less to think about. He’s waited this long. Maybe he should wait a few more days until after the Draft Lottery.
Figure on Burke reeling in another one, but don’t completely rule out the home team.