Who? Our very own six million dollar man, Paul Kariya. There’s a great article/interview with Kariya by Jeremy Rutherford in the STL Post-Dispatch which details how hard he’s been training to get back in shape.
The interview is continued in Rutherford’s Morning Skate. I’ve got to admit that it’s all extremely encouraging. I rate Kariya very highly – he’s not just a speedster, he has great vision, great hands and makes players around him better.
Now, if he’s had problems with his left side since 1999 and yet has still produced at the level he has, then that is definitely a very encouraging sign. The best thing is that Kariya feels better in himself. He’s confident about his own ability – and is full of praise for the rest of the team, especially our young guys. A healthy, fast Kariya with Boyes, McDonald, Oshie, Berglund et al…well, the rest of the division had better be on their game when they face the Blues.
This is Kariya’s “contract year”. He’s a UFA after this season. There are an awful lot of “well, Kariya’s $6m contract will be off our books next season” posts on forums. I wouldn’t be too sure of that. You can’t get rid of ALL your vets. I wouldn’t sign him to $6m again – the Blues had to overpay to get players at that time. Taking into account his injuries, lack of playing time and the support the Blues have given him, then I would like to see Kariya be a little flexible. As he states in the article, he’d like to stay with the Blues past next season:
“There’s no better place to be in the league right now,” he said. “I think we’ve got the best group of young hockey players in the NHL, and I’m very excited to be a part of it and see where we can take it.”
I’d love to see him stay too. At the right price, of course. We can’t re-sign Kariya if it would mean losing Oshie, Berglund, EJ etc. However, I think the Blues could get it done. The player wants to stay so that’s half the battle.
As for me, the name “Paul Kariya” is going to be the first one selected in my fantasy hockey team for the coming season. I have faith – and I’m very excited about the team’s potential now he’s back.