March 31, 2011
In 2009, the Ottawa Senators were in negotiations with agent Wade Arnott over a blue-chip, coveted NCAA free agent's NHL future.
Two years later, Arnott is the advisor for another coveted college free agent: Stephane Da Costa, 21, who had 90 points in 67 games during two seasons with Merrimack. This time, Ottawa's courtship paid off. From the Sens:
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced today the club has signed free agent forward Stephane Da Costa to a two-year entry-level contract.
Da Costa's collegiate career came to an end on Saturday, March 26, when his Merrimack College Warriors fell 4-3 in overtime to Notre Dame at the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional finals in Manchester, N.H. During his just-completed sophomore season, Da Costa led the Warriors in scoring for the second consecutive campaign, recording 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) in 33 games.
Born in Paris, France, there were as few as 20 and as many as 30 teams interested in his services. Why choose Ottawa? Immediate impact, for one. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune explained earlier this week:
From what I can tell, Minnesota and Ottawa offer him the best opportunity. In other words, take Toronto. They've got Kadri, Bozak, Grabovski and Colborne. Think Da Costa's got a better chance to crack there? Take Philly, who's jam-packed with young forwards, etc. That's the type of thing I believe Da Costa will analyze with Wade Arnott (Jason's bro) and the rest of his agents at Newport.
The Philadelphia Daily News reported that Da Costa "was less interested in money and more interested in how quickly he could crack the roster" with the Flyers, who obviously are stacked at forward.
No word on the financials on the deal yet. Earlier this week, Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports painted the following picture:
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(notes) and Tyler Seguin(notes) 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.
Perhaps Ottawa, with a projected $16.6 million in cap space next season, accommodated him both fiscally and in ice time.