Once the tumult of the first few days of free agency pass by, rumors are left floating on the NHL waters like that yellow-brown foam that washed up on the beach after a rough storm. And speaking of gross, yellow (yellow visor wearing anyway), foamy things, one of those rumors currently sunning itself on the beach concerns Sharks blueliner Kyle McLaren.
Yes, he's defenseman Kyle McLaren, you may remember him from such dirty hits as "elbow to the face of Richard Zednik" in the 2002 playoffs. With that hit, McLaren put Zednik out for two rounds of the playoffs, got Mac himself a three game suspension, and incurred the wrath of every Francophile in Quebec.
The next year, the Bruins offered him a two-way deal, which McLaren either perceived as an insult or vintage Boston Bruin front office penny pinching. Either way, he was done with the organization and demanded a trade. Rumor is, he just missed hearing people use the letter R in their speech. The Sharks traded Jeff Jillson and Jeff Hacket, one of their 20 NHL caliber goaltenders at the time for the rights to McLaren, who then went on to underwhelm the fans in the tank by posting a -10 in his first year swimming with the fishes.
Now here's why I'm bothering to talk about him, though. After that first disappointing season with the Sharks (in which he made it look like he actually deserved to be in a two way contract), KMac bounced back to go +10 the next season, and went +29 over the next four seasons. He's got one year left on his current contract for $2.5 million, is only 31 years old (3 years younger than a certain UFA defenseman who can't seem to make up his mind), and is reportedly available in exchange for a draft pick.
If McLaren joins a new team and continues the stride he's had in San Jose for the past four seasons, he'll be a huge addition and is worth a heck of a lot more than just a draft pick. Fortunately for every NHL team with a thin D-corps, San Jose was able to take advantage of a Bolt of insanity when Tampa decided they didn't need to play defense anymore. The Sharks also picked up Rob Blake for the coming year, meaning they now have roughly 15.5 million dollars tied up in their top four defenders. One of those has to go, and it looks like it's going to be McLaren.
Toby Kieth Enstrom has got a defensive game that anybody in the first couple of years of their NHL career should be thankful for. But can you imagine if he had a year to learn the art (and it truly is an artform) of the hip check from the best in the league? Kyle McLaren's pelvis is a weapon the likes of which Blueland hasn't seen since Gord Murphy. On top of that, the guy just looks like a viking warrior, and he scares the hell out of the other team.
So, loyal readers, I say we let the UFA defensemen hem and haw on their own. The Thrashers can fill out our defense today for the cost of a single draft pick.
Chicago---X (sorry, buddy, I just can't pretend last year didn't happen.)
For the Chronicle, I'm Razor Catch Prey.