<
>
Insider

DeKeyser's decision to pass on NHL

Danny DeKeyser was coveted by several NHL teams. Patrick S Blood/Icon SMI

He was hockey's hottest college free agent. Until Monday. Western Michigan University sophomore defenseman Danny DeKeyser let Broncos coach Andy Murray know that he wasn't going anywhere after helping lead the school to one of its most successful hockey seasons in recent years. Then he alerted the hockey world on Twitter, with a message saying he was heading back to school for at least one more year instead of signing with an NHL team.

That meant the 15-20 NHL teams that were seriously pursuing him have to wait another year for a chance to add the talented young defensemen into their system. That's bad news for teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers -- a trio among the many interested.

"It was a really tough decision," DeKeyser said when we chatted on Tuesday afternoon. "Probably the toughest decision of my life. It was definitely tough to turn down [the NHL]. I'm just hoping to come back and have another good year and be that much more ready next year."

Give Murray an assist in DeKeyser's decision to stay in Kalamazoo. The former NHL coach told DeKeyser he would help him out either way. If DeKeyser decided to leave school, Murray offered to help DeKeyser break down organizational depth charts to assist him in making the best possible decision moving forward. But ultimately, another year to develop under Murray was the option most attractive to DeKeyser. DeKeyser said he's going to spend the summer building strength and hopes to add another 10 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame.

"He's awesome," DeKeyser said of Murray. "Being a previous NHL coach, we're basically getting run like a pro team here. He definitely knows his stuff."

He got a big reaction on Twitter when he announced the news and received plenty of text messages from those happy he was staying. Naturally there were a few people online who thought he was crazy to put his NHL dreams on hold to stay in school.

"I got a couple Twitter posts that said, 'What are you thinking?'" DeKeyser said. "Yeah, I can definitely see why people would call me out on that."

Another interesting college situation to watch is the one surrounding Wisconsin's Justin Schultz. He's a former second-round pick of the Ducks and Anaheim would love to sign him now that his college season is finished. If they don't, he'll be a free agent this summer and will attract a ton of interest. The Ducks are sweating this and are the only NHL team that can offer him the chance to burn a year off his entry level deal. But every day that passes without a deal with Anaheim, the likelihood he hits free agency increases dramatically.