Yesterday, Laura posed the question: is Colin White ready to turn pro? Given his performance and pedigree, and given the fact that the Ottawa Senators seem to feel he’s ready for the AHL, the answer to that question is probably yes.
But is turning pro the best move for him at this time? Given the current standoff between White and the Senators, the answer to that question is a little more complicated.
Disclaimer: I have no problem with players leaving to get paid. They should do what’s in their best interest. I have an issue with college teams recruiting too many one-and-done type players, but my issue in that case is with the recruiting - not with the players. Go get paid.
That said, White is in a situation here where he could gain a lot of financial leverage by staying another year at BC - while also potentially racking up hardware and developing further as a player next season.
Right now, the Senators are asking White to report to the AHL for the final two weeks of the season on an amateur tryout basis. White and his camp are insisting on signing a professional entry-level contract, which would allow White to burn 1 of the 3 years on his first contract - even if he only plays in the AHL.
That would bring White closer to his second and third contracts, which are much more lucrative than entry-level deals. Burning a year of the ELC is an incentive often offered by teams to college players to lure them out of school early.
Right now, the Senators have all the leverage in this situation. They don’t think White has a role to play at the NHL level for the rest of this season as a veteran-laden Ottawa team pursues a playoff spot, and they know White wants to turn pro. As such, the worst case scenario for them is waiting White out until the offseason and signing him going in to training camp next year. They lose out on two weeks of White’s development in the AHL, which is not ideal, but not the end of the world.
But what if White comes back to Boston College next year? Suddenly, the leverage could be all on his side next April. Assuming White has an outstanding season next year, he could come out after his junior year and be in a position where he could demand the rookie maximum contract ($925,000 per year in the NHL, $70,000 per year in the AHL, plus potential performance bonuses).
He’d be able to sign a deal at the end of next year that would still put him on track to have his entry-level deal expire in 2020, just as it would if he signed this fall - but on his terms.
Why on his terms? Because under the CBA, teams have four years from the draft date to sign players. If they can’t get a deal done, they become unrestricted free agents. Kevin Hayes and Jimmy Vesey are recent examples of collegiate stars who held out after their senior year and hit the free agent market in July, spurning the teams that drafted them and getting to hand-pick their first NHL destination.
Ottawa certainly does not want to see that happen with their first round pick, so after White’s junior year, he would have much more leverage — sign me to a deal on my terms, or I’ll consider staying at BC’s a fourth year and signing wherever I want as a free agent.
Given Ottawa’s reluctance to sign White to any sort of professional contract right now, would they offer an incentive-laden, rookie maximum deal if an agreement was reached this spring? It stands to reason that the answer is probably no.
But over the next year, in addition to the lingering threat of free agency, White has a number of opportunities to raise his stock even higher.
As a junior, he could make the difference for BC next year between a bubble NCAA team and a contender for serious hardware. He’d have another year of strength and conditioning at the collegiate level, and another year of experience that could help him put up big numbers. Perhaps he could make the leap to Hobey Baker Award contender and help BC win titles.
He may feature on this year’s USA World Championship hockey team, and depending on what happens with NHL players and the Olympics, he could potentially suit up in the Olympics next year, too - more chances to make an impression and raise his value.
In addition to raising his value, he could also make it likelier that he goes straight to the NHL, or at least spends less time in the AHL. He wouldn’t be the first NCAA player who decided more time in college playing for trophies was preferable to riding the bus and avoiding the elbows of Tom Sestito and Zac Rinaldo in the AHL.
Ottawa’s situation could also be very different a year from now. They could be well out of the playoff race, comfortably in the playoff race and confident in their ability to slip a rookie in to the lineup for a few games, or less confident in their depth at center than they are right now. As such, there could be more opportunities for White to jump straight to the NHL.
It’s easy to understand why White would want to turn pro now - especially when Senators GM Pierre Dorion went on record earlier this year saying he felt like White would probably play NHL games at the end of this season (in retrospect: probably not a smart thing for him to say!). But now that Ottawa’s situation has changed and they don’t see him immediately making the jump to the NHL, it could make financial and career sense for White to consider coming back to BC.
And while the doors will obviously always be open to White to finish his degree some day, completing three years makes it a lot easier to complete your degree over a few summers, as Mike Matheson, Johnny Gaudreau, and numerous other BC pros have done in recent years - setting themselves up for their lives after hockey.
And, uh, oh yeah, this outcome would make me happy as a BC fan. But hey, we’re just thinking about you, man!
What do you think?