College hockey is different now. While drafted players are always a risk to leave, the unpredictability of free agency has had a great impact on the sport. Undrafted players are free to go wherever they want, though they are limited in the dollars they can receive on their entry-level deals.
In the case of UMD junior Rob Bordson, that max offer came, and it was time to strike while the proverbial iron was hot.
Bordson signed a two-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks Sunday, and he will join the team later this week. While it's uncertain whether he will play with the big club, he will apparently remain with the Ducks for the rest of the season. That will at least give him a chance to practice with NHL players and get a feel for the intensity of an NHL playoff race (the Ducks are hanging by a thread in the Western Conference).
A WCHA Scholar Athlete this season, Bordson is giving up his last year of college eligibility to turn pro.
"I had a pretty busy day and some tough decisions, but at the end of the day I've always wanted to play professional hockey. It was a tough decision leaving my hometown and college, but it was too good of an offer to pass up," Bordson said Sunday night. "Nothing would have been guaranteed for next year. I think it was time to move on and take that next step in my career.
... "It was definitely very difficult. I love everyone at UMD. They were very professional about it, very supportive. They were very helpful. It was tough leaving them," he said. "Everyone wants to be a professional hockey player. I think it was the time to do it."
People will undoubtedly look at this as some sign of a broken system in the sport. While I've heard rumblings of discontent from college coaches about the way free agents are scouted, it's very difficult to begrudge either Bordson or the Ducks.
For Bordson, this was the best entry-level offer he was ever going to get. Since he'd be 23 next year when he could again sign a contract, his maximum money would actually drop, meaning he'd be getting less money over the course of a two-year deal. Not only that, but this team is willing to pay him a pro-rated salary for the rest of the season with no real guarantee of how much he'll play.
Bordson gets a head-start on his training for next season, and if he gets a chance to get on the ice for a game, he'll only be better from it.
From Anaheim's perspective, it's a pretty cheap way of bringing new young talent into the organization. They can take a look at him as much as they want over the final two weeks of the regular season, and then they have the rights to him next year for training camp for an even longer look.
Even if Bordson ends up in the minors, he has taken a good first step toward what we hope is a successful pro career.
This part of the system certainly sucks, but there isn't a sport where kids are bound to a college for four years, and there shouldn't be one. Scholarships are not a four-year contract to a college, nor are they a four-year contract for the kid. They can be revoked, and they sometimes are.
While I have previously been a firm advocate of a two-year minimum on a college commitment for any player who signs a letter of intent, it would only hurt the sport to go that route. Players like Jordan Schroeder, Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, or (in the past) Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, or Erik Johnson could be less inclined to go to college, because there was no lock any of these kids were going to stay in school two years.
I get the idea that having kids who want to be in college hockey is best for the sport, but the sport would suffer if the high-end players were more likely to go major junior or directly to the pros. You need those kids to help bring some notoriety to the game, even if they only stay a year.
In Bordson's case, he stayed three years, had an awesome junior season, and while there were still some flaws in his game, it's hard to tell a kid that he should just turn down a max offer that may never be there for him again in his life.