Question: In addition to being hoisters of the 2009 Stanley Cup, what else might Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Ruslan Fedotenko have in common?
Answer: They all began their NHL careers as un-drafted free agents - as did NHL Miami University mega-stars Andy Greene and Dan Boyle. ..and Chad LaRose.
This "Chuck Norris of Hockey," as he is labeled in the current Wikipedia entry (Wuffy-prose?), earned a look from the hometown Detroit Red Wings and was signed by the Canes in 2003 largely because of his potential as a goal scorer.
Chad is a larger-than-life personality in a sport where the majority of the players are pretty lunch pail. He’s a Chad Ochocinco-caliber yapper, but Chad LaRochocinco is not selfish and narcissistic.
The Good: Chad paid his dues on the 4th line and was pretty much a smallish grinder with hands of stone early in his NHL career. Over the past two seasons he’s earned the opportunity to embrace his inner-Marty St. Louis, and his point totals have increased each season. I think the biggest improvement to Chad’s game has been in the area of passing. It was his soft pass to a blazing Eric Staal, even as Colin White closed on him like a big freight train of poor defensive discipline, that lead to the game winning goal in the waning seconds of game seven versus the Devils.
Paul Maurice’s quote from the Bruins series sums up Chad's role pretty well:
"He's one of those guys that everybody likes to play with," Coach Paul Maurice said. "He's excited about playing. He's going to go work his butt off, so he's going to make you look good. He gives you chances to score. He's going to compete and say a few funny things on the bench. ... As we're moving the lines around, 'Guys, you're playing with Chad today,' (the reaction is), 'All right, I'm playing with Chad today - that's a good thing."'
The Bad: Rumor has it Chad is rather short. He’s listed at 5’10" in skates with insoles…and those fuzzy skate blade covers. Fishing for an additional "shortcoming," I’ll merely opine that Chad tends to push the envelope a bit. He tends to take on physical challenges his body can’t deliver-like brawling Zdeno Chara, or trying to take a shot in the middle of an unplanned triple-toe-loop. It would be fun to see a highlight reel of his greatest tumbles and collisions. Chad was also benched by Maurice one game in December-probably just a who’s the boss moment in the early days of Coach Mo's return.
The Money: LaRose will be an unrestricted free agent this year, and as I’ve said before, I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit of a bidding war for Chad’s services. Clubs that don’t mind throwing money around and clubs with identity or chemistry issues might find him an attractive free agent. While I’m sure he would love to remain a Hurricane, the lure of a bigger payday and a higher profile role in a major market might prove pretty sexy to the young star.
LaRose earned less than $1 mil last season. I think he’ll command a contract in the $2.5 -$3.0 mil per year range for his next deal. Would it be crazy to see the Rangers offer him $4 mil? They’ve got eight RFAs, a coveted UFA in Nik Antropov and a retiring Markus Naslund. Yeah, they have more than $16 mil going to Gomez and Drury, but With Chad and Sean Avery on the roster, the 2009-2010 New York Rangers might just be made for reality TV. Picture it - Real World Manhattan-Chad and Sean Avery sharing a Soho snake ranch flat. Hijinks ensue.