We've covered this ground before, but we should recap the subject, since Danny Kristo's college career will soon come to a close and he can sign a pro contract within weeks. He's a skater with outstanding speed and good offensive skills, but questionable character based on a few off-ice incidents while at the University of North Dakota. He's played four years of NCAA hockey and had a chance to mature physically, so he can conceivably keep up to the pace of the NHL in short order.
Mr. Kristo was the Canadiens top draft choice in 2008, when they picked him in the second round, 56th overall.
Reasons that point to him signing with the Canadiens:
Danny Kristo has never stated that he doesn't want to sign with the Canadiens. His apparent reluctance to sign a pro contract can plausibly be explained by his preferring to play at his childhood favourite team at UND rather than for the Hamilton Bulldogs. This season, his decision to stay in school and try again for a championship was reasonable for a guy who appears to love college lifestyle, given that a lockout loomed.
Mr. Kristo has some ties to the Canadiens, in that he used to play and room with Louis Leblanc, and currently plays with Mark MacMillan, another Habs draft pick.
Danny Kristo can begin his NHL career in April, instead of having to wait until next season. He can pocket a big signing bonus and start earning a pro paycheque right away. He would have a shot at a playoff run and even a Stanley Cup if he stuck with the Canadiens. If he starts playing pro this season, he starts the clock on his Entry Level contract one year sooner, with all that entails in terms of free agency and arbitration rights and higher earnings.
The entry level contract dictates the maximum monetary amount he can earn, so there is no great financial benefit to be derived by declaring as a free agent. There can't be a bidding war between teams for his services.
The Canadiens are on a terrific upswing this season, both as an organization and in the standings. The future looks brighter, and the prospect of joining it looks immeasurably better than last season. The new Canadiens management team appears to be a popular one with the players, and they can probably be very convincing in their sales pitch.
Reasons that point to him waiting until August and declare free agency:
The main advantage Mr. Kristo would gain by not signing with the Canadiens is in the freedom he would gain. He can choose the city he’ll live in and the organization he’ll play for, those are huge considerations for a young man and player. He can extract a promise from the team about whether he’ll play in the NHL or AHL, as Justin Schultz did with the Oilers.
While the salary he can earn is set by the standard Entry Level Contract, tax considerations make signing with some teams more advantageous. His agent and financial planners will no doubt point out to him the locales where taxes are lower.
A corollary benefit to the previous two is that, with a guarantee that he would play in the NHL from a weak sister team, he would earn an NHL wage next season rather than an AHL wage. This guarantee is not something that would likely come from the Canadiens management team.
If Danny Kristo is keen to start his career, I don't see him waiting until August to become a free agent. I can't imagine that would be an easy thing to do, sitting on the sidelines while the team you could have been a part of gets set to hit the playoffs. I believe he'd jump at the chance to sign and experience NHL hockey right away.
If however the perceived coolness to the Canadiens organization is a fact and grounded in reality, and he doesn't sign right after his college season is over, we can expect that GM Marc Bergevin will trade his rights to another team more likely to sign him in return for a draft pick.