For Eaves to get his team back to the Frozen Four this year, he'll need one of the greatest coaching jobs mankind has seen in a long time.
Wisconsin has already lost eight of its top 13 scorers from last year, including early departures in defensemen Brendan Smith and Cody Goloubef. Eaves also had to replace assistant coaches Mark Osiecki and Kevin Patrick. Osiecki took the head job at Ohio State, while Patrick became a head coach and GM in the USHL.
Now, Eaves may have to deal with two more early departures. Both would be damaging.
Leading scorer Derek Stepan (photographed) has reportedly decided to leave for a gig with the New York Rangers, but the Rangers won't be signing him until after July 1 -- which is Thursday. Stepan says he hasn't decided yet, but all indications are that he will be gone. The drama surrounding recruit Matt Lindblad was at least partially a response to Stepan's late and unexpected decision to bolt.
Another Wisconsin star, defenseman and co-captain Ryan McDonagh, is considering making the jump. He doesn't appear in any hurry to make up his mind as he attends the Rangers' prospect camp.
"I feel like this is a huge week," McDonagh admitted. "I really didn't want to jump into a decision without coming out here first. It was unfortunate I got traded last summer right during this camp. I didn't get a chance to come out here and I didn't get a feel for the staff and the players. Before I make my decision, I want to experience what it would be like out here and just get a feel for it. The staff members get to see me face to face as opposed to a phone call. There's a lot of value there before you make a big decision in your life.
"I think they've followed me enough on the ice and seen me throughout the seasons, so it's more just getting to know what kind of person I am character-wise before I make a step further here."
McDonagh could captain the Wisconsin squad this fall if he stays, along with finishing his degree, something that sounds important to him. My boy Chuck Schwartz details two another compelling reasons for McDonagh to stay.
For one, the NHL max contract for his draft year is $875,000. Thats a solid chunk of change. But if McDonagh isn't in the NHL next season, his salary max drops to $65,000. One of the biggest hold ups for McDonagh is that he wants to really analyze the situation with the Rangers and see where he fits in. Can you blame him? That's a significant money difference if he's in the NHL or in the AHL.
There is also the added fact that if McDonagh doesn't sign this summer, he can become a free agent next summer. What does that mean exactly? Next summer McDonagh will be able to pick and chose which NHL team he wants to sign with. The advantage with that, is that he can chose an organization that can guarantee him a spot in the NHL where he will be making the max contract all season. He can also chose an organization that is run properly, not one that is run by Glen Sather.
Right on both counts. It's always better to play for a real NHL franchise, as opposed to one who passes over two players who will have a chance to play in the NHL this season for one who is at least a year or two away.
Or one that intentionally and gainfully employed Olli Jokinen, then used him for the most important shootout round in the history of the NHL shootout.
Oh, and Chuck's right. Rangers fans are dumb. They don't deserve to have a player like McDonagh, who will make a solid impact in the pros when he arrives.
Unfortunately, Stepan is stuck. Maybe he can figure out a way to get Sather to trade him somewhere.