The NCAA hockey season is coming to an end, and the bidding wars have started for 21 year old sophomore Stephane Da Costa. If you don’t know who he is, Da Costa is a French-born forward who many feel can play in the NHL right away. He has put up back to back 45 and 46 point seasons for the Merrimack College Warriors.
By contrast, Bobby Butler notched 30 and 53 points respectively in his final two seasons in the same league as Da Costa. The Frenchman is smallish in stature (5’11″, 180 lbs) and at age 21 might not get much bigger, but can get stronger. Da Costa had offers to turn pro after last season, but decided to return to college for his sophomore season.
His season ended on the weekend, and he is now listening to offers from NHL teams as he has stated his intention to leave school for the pros as of now. The lineup will be long, with as many as all 30 teams showing an interest in his services. The offers will be made yesterday and today, with a decision expected from Da Costa on Wednesday.
Da Costa has also played at 2 World Championships as a member of the French National Team.
For one thing, he would have the opportunity to step in now. Ottawa has given college signees a shot right away in the past three years (Jesse Winchester, Bobby Butler). A team where he can step in right away is beneficial as the rules state that he must sign a multi-year contract, but if he plays a game this season it burns one of those years. It would get him one year closer to free agency and a bigger paycheck. Playoff teams, or those still in the hunt might be hesitant to mess with chemistry and bring in a fresh face so close to the post-season.
Another factor is cap space. Since next season is the last year of the current CBA, all rookie bonuses will count against the cap, whether they are earned or not. This could mean that although Da Costa’s salary will be about $900,000, the bonuses he can be offered could push that to almost $4 million. With many teams already very close to the anticipated Salary Cap, Ottawa is one of the few teams in a position to offer him all available bonuses for next season.
Bryan Murray has been very successful in securing some of the top US College free agents in the past, and it would be another notch in his cap to land Da Costa for the Ottawa Senators.