Photo Credit: Nathan W. Armes
From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers
In the stretch run of a formidable chase for the NCAA hockey championship, the University of Denver lost its leading scorer when sophomore Brock Trotter bolted while dealing with personal problems and signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Pioneers paid a hefty price that has nothing to do with money, and Trotter collected with a three-year free-agent contract. DU coach George Gwozdecky said he's happy Trotter got a nice deal, but he doesn't like the precedent it may have set.
Trotter is the second collegiate star to leave a team this season. In December, the Minnesota Golden Gophers lost their top forward, sophomore Kyle Okposo, because the New York Islanders wanted to develop him under their own watch.
"The Canadiens seemed really interested, and obviously they're putting a lot of faith in me," Trotter said Sunday from Hamilton, Ontario, where he is scheduled to make his debut this week with Montreal's American Hockey League affiliate.
Gwozdecky has been a Division I coach since 1984, but before this season he remembers just one college player who signed an NHL deal during the season. It was a Wisconsin player, but he doesn't remember his name.
"It's always a concern when something like this happens. You hope it's not a trend," Gwozdecky said. "All coaches, especially in the WCHA, are very concerned about it."
Gwozdecky would neither confirm nor deny that Trotter was suspended before his departure. So, what got Trotter thinking about turning pro during DU's run to the Frozen Four at the Pepsi Center?
"Personal stuff going on," he said, "and I don't really want to dwell on it."
NCAA hockey is one of three major development entities for the NHL, but the only one that is unprotected from absorbing in-season player departures to NHL contracts.
If Trotter or Okposo played in the Canadian Hockey League, otherwise known as major junior, or a European elite league, they would have been prohibited or deterred from signing NHL deals.
"There is no deterrent with us at all," Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner Bruce McLeod said. "We have to come up with a deterrent, whether you can't sign after the season starts, or even like July 15, because it's hard to replace a guy after that.
"But, of course, we can't deal with money. We can't impose fines like the (International Ice Hockey Federation). It has to be a rule like major junior."
In major junior, an NHL prospect learns his full-season status after the first 10 NHL regular- season games. He sticks with the NHL club or is sent back to major junior for the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
If an NHL club signs an IIHF player and that player does not play in the NHL, the team that signs him compensates the IIHF team up to $150,000.
"We have to inject some rules to protect college hockey," Gophers coach Don Lucia said.
"(DU's) situation is a little different than ours (with Okposo), but we have to find a common ground. Other leagues are protected and ours isn't. . . . We don't hold any cards, and therein lies the problem. We don't have any leverage."
McLeod and the five other Division I conference commissioners are prepared to discuss early- or midseason signings with the NHL on Feb. 19 in Naples, Fla.
"We met with Bill Daly, Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell in late October about the issue, and the NHL established a collegiate hockey liaison committee, with us commissioners and seven GMs," McLeod said. "We're not proposing a rule on the 19th. We're going to talk about our concerns. And then in April, during our American Hockey Coaches Association meetings, hopefully we'll come up with a proposal that we're united on and present it to the NHL."
For the NHL to make any changes in its collective bargaining agreement, the NHL Players' Association would have to agree as well.
"It's very important to the league to maintain a good working relationship with collegiate hockey coaches and administrators for the good of the game, the players and hockey fans everywhere," Daly, the NHL deputy commissioner, said.
One possible rule would be to prevent NHL teams from signing a college player until after his sophomore season, or two years after he begins college.
Trotter was in his third year at DU. He took a medical redshirt in 2005-06 after severing his Achilles tendon.
"I had a good relation with a lot of people there, and I'm definitely going to miss them," Trotter said. "But I've moved on."