Now that his sophomore season with the NCAA’s University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks is over, the pursuit of unrestricted free agent Andrej Sustr is expected to ramp up.
If we’re to believe, Pierre McGuire’s In the Crease feature for Sports Illustrated this past November, the amount of interest in the collegiate defenceman is significant.
"Scouts from at least 20 NHL teams have journeyed to the heartland to watch 6'8" defenseman Andrej Sustr, a 20-year-old Czech-born sophomore at Nebraska-Omaha."
If the basic rules of supply and demand didn’t give Sustr enough leverage in contract negotiations with NHL teams, the threat – like Bruce Garrioch pointed out on Twitter – that he could return to school for his junior year could move desperate teams to give him the money and contract perks (ie. a one-way contract) that he would be looking for.
From what CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has heard it is "believed that the Senators have an interest in this defenceman."
For an organization that employs a hockey ops staff that has had success attracting collegiate players in the past – Dustin Penner, Chris Kunitz, Andy McDonald, Bobby Butler, Jesse Winchester, and Stephane Da Costa to name a few – and lacks young depth at the defence position, it would certainly make sense for the Senators to be interested in a player with similar phsical characteristics to a certain Norris Trophy winner.
The similarities don’t end there. McGuire continued to wax poetic by saying that Sustr’s, "role model is the 6'9" Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, though most scouts feel Sustr will be less of a developmental project than Chara". It's a comparison Sustr seems to face quite often:
"Everybody likes to compare me to Zdeno Chara. I think (pauses to think), he went through the same way I did. He came over and tried to improve everything and was drafted right after that and jumped into the NHL and is still playing well. He's a good example for me."
Now it's conceivable the Senators may have a leg up landing Sustr by illustrating the role the organization played molding a young and raw Slovak into an all-around force. Furthermore sometime defensive partner at Omaha Bryce Aneloski is a 2010 Ottawa draft pick, which probably doesn't hurt. Oh, and also having a reasonable chance to crack an NHL lineup sooner rather than later would seem to be attractive.
As enticing as it would be to add some young Chara-esque prospect to the roster without having to give up anything – be it a draft pick, future assets in a trade, or an exorbitant amount of cash – one does not have to look too far, say to the press box or Binghamton, to notice that the frequency or amount that some of these collegiate players contribute at the NHL level can often leave something to be desired. 'Free wallets" are not necessarily stacked with cash, so even though this is Ottawa – checking all Zdeno-envy at the door seems advised. This kid could be something…or he could be Boris Valabik, or less.
Nevertheless, with a number of veteran defencemen who will assuredly (hopefully?) not be part of the Senators’ plans beyond the expiration of their current contracts and the uncertainty or low ceilings of some of their defensive prospects beyond Jared Cowen or Erik Karlsson, the addition of Sustr would certainly fit with the organization's rebuilding philosophy of stockpiling young talent at every position.
Columbus Shopping Their First-Round Pick?
In light of how much of a disasterfuck the Blue Jackets’ season has been to this point, ownership and GM Scott Howson must have some sick sense of humour if what Marc Antoine Godin hears is true.
Godin, a journalist who covers the Montreal Canadiens for La Presse, tweeted the following on Saturday:
NHL execs from three different teams told me #CBJ are expected to trade their 1st round pick (likely 1st overall) at upcoming draft #yakupov
As Jonathan Willis so eloquently stated on the Cult of Hockey blog for the Edmonton Journal, if the Blue Jackets ownership or current management lets the team’s bottom line or the incompetence of failed regimes dictate the personnel choices of the future, they will fail.
Management may be uncomfortable selecting either of the highly touted Russian players projected to go at the top of the draft class because of the failures of prospects like Nikita Filatov or Nikolai Zherdev, however, it's not like they're the only highly touted players to fail to live up to their billing.
Gilbert Brule, Pascal Leclaire, Jakub Voracek, Alexandre Picard, and Derick Brassard have all gone through their own individual struggles. That is not a Russian problem. That is a scouting and player development problem.
Looking ahead, could you imagine if Columbus moved the potential first overall selection because they have never developed a Russian player properly and a player like Yakupov goes on to be a marketable star?
There would be hell to pay.
Fortunately for Ottawa, it's a favorable situation that could be exploited.
So how much or how little should Murray be offerieng Howson? …keeping in mind Brian Lee can no longer be the basis of every online trade proposal. Have at it in the comments.