Stephane Da Costa is flying to Toronto on Monday morning. By Wednesday, he should have a new home.
Da Costa, 21, is a free agent after leading Merrimack College to its best season in school history. It ended Saturday with a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA playoffs. But that doesn't mean he is done for the year.
CBA rules indicate he must sign a multi-year contract with his new NHL team. But if he gets into a game before the end of the regular season, he'll burn one of those years.
Da Costa is headed to Newport Sports, where his agents, Wade Arnott and Ed Ward, will begin fielding offers. While Arnott confirmed that process begins Monday, he didn't really want to go much further. From talking to several sources, here's some idea of how it will play out:
There were at least 20 teams who scouted the centre at some point this season and it's believed approximately 15 of them have some level of interest. Expected among the most serious suitors are Ottawa (two sources said Senators scout Lew Mongelluzzo spent more time at Merrimack than many of the school's students), Boston (same for the Bruins' Ryan Nadeau), Minnesota, Anaheim, Nashville and Pittsburgh.
Toronto and Vancouver have also watched Da Costa closely.
There will be others, although some of those teams are curious about Philadelphia, which did scout Da Costa very closely. But in the past few weeks, the Flyers signed two free agents of their own - Matt Read (Bemidji State) and Harry Zolnierczyk (Brown) - so it's uncertain if they are still interested.
Some of those rosters are easier to crack than others, which will influence Da Costa's decision. But people paint a picture of a pretty mature guy who will look at some other factors such as how he sees himself fitting in with a team's style/coaching staff and how successful NCAA free agents tend to be in each organization.
What really might determine his final destination is Da Costa's willingness to be flexible. His contract structure will be the same as those taken in the 2010 entry draft: a $900,000 base salary; eligible for up to $2.85 million in bonuses. Since the 2011-12 NHL season is the last in this current CBA - unless there's a surprise extension by July 1 - all player bonuses count immediately.
Therefore, if Da Costa took the full bonus structure, he'd have a $3.75-million cap hit for next season - just like Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin for example. That would probably prevent him from signing with, say, Boston or Pittsburgh. So if he really wants to go to one of those teams, he'll have to drop some of those bonuses.
He's going to get a lot of offers. And he'll have about two days to decide.
(Photo of Stephane Da Costa courtesy Josh Gibney/Associated Press)
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