Coveted college free agent Danny DeKeyser signs with Detroit

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Western Michigan D Danny DeKeyser will garner a lot of NHL interest soon. (Zolton Cohen)
Western Michigan defenseman Danny DeKeyser has agreed to terms with the Detroit Red Wings. (Zolton Cohen)

Highly coveted college free-agent defenseman Danny DeKeyser has agreed to terms with the Detroit Red Wings, the team announced on Friday.

Detroit was the rumored favorite to land DeKeyser since the process began, and the Michigan native decided to stay close to home. Almost every NHL team had interest in DeKeyser, with NHL general managers, head coaches and, in some cases, owners pitching the 23-year-old blueliner this week near Toronto.

DeKeyser, a late-bloomer who became an unrestricted free agent after going undrafted during his age-eligible seasons, had many teams interested in signing him after last season but he chose to stay in school and develop. It proved to be a good decision as interest was even higher this year to acquire the 6-foot-3, 198-pound rearguard.

There are many reasons that most NHL teams had interest in DeKeyser. His pro size and skill level clearly drove the interest, but what brought it to near frenzied levels was the fact that he could only sign for the maximum entry-level contract. There was no monetary bidding war but one based on the opportunity that a team could provide.

In addition to the Red Wings' perceived geographical advantage, Jeff Blashill, coach of Detroit's AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, is the former coach at Western Michigan and recruited DeKeyser to the school. DeKeyser also briefly played youth hockey with Trevor Nill, son of Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill, giving the DeKeyser family some extra familiarity.

However, with such huge interest from teams around the NHL, it only made sense to listen to all of the offers and find the best fit. That fit apparently is the Detroit Red Wings.

According to a source familiar with the negotiation process, the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and Winnipeg Jets were among the many teams to pitch DeKeyser this week. The Flyers' involvement reportedly included owner Ed Snider, who was in Toronto to help recruit DeKeyser.

The junior defenseman posted 15 points in 35 games with Western Michigan, which narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament. He has been described by NHL scouts as a solid two-way defenseman who takes care of his own end first and possesses great mobility.

It is believed DeKeyser will be able to slot into Detroit's NHL lineup relatively soon and contribute. According to the Red Wings, he will practice with the team for the first time on Saturday.

The Red Wings have needed defensive depth badly with injuries depleting the blue line. Now the team has a serviceable though inexperienced player who can help shore up defensive depth without having to give up any assets in a trade. This deal makes a lot of sense for Detroit. For DeKeyser, it is likely a dream come true.

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