Hartigan To Sign With Atlanta

Like Wisconsin’s Dany Heatley a year ago, Mark Hartigan is going straight from an NCAA loss to Atlanta. Unlike Heatley, he does so as a free agent, not as the No. 2 pick in the draft.

Hartigan, a Hobey Baker Award finalist and WCHA Player of the Year, agreed to a one-year deal with the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, according to a report in today’s St. Cloud Times. The article says Hartigan is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon, and play Saturday in Detroit.

He becomes the biggest collegiate star to sign an NHL free agent deal this season, and hopes to follow Heatley’s footsteps in more ways than one; Heatley is an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate.

“It seemed like Atlanta was the place to go, they showed the most interest,” Hartigan told the St. Cloud Times. “I’m excited about the opportunity to play there because I think I’ll fit in really well. They’ve got a lot of good younger players. I can’t wait.”

Hartigan, 24, leaves St. Cloud State as the top goal scorer in school history. The Fort St. John, B.C., native had 37 goals and 75 points this season, and 86 goals for his career.

Hartigan’s NHL schedule may preclude him from attending the Hobey Baker Award ceremony April 5 in St. Paul, Minn. This year, for the first time, the top three finalists will be invited to attend the event. The Hobey committee is scheduled to name the three players today.

“I have no clue about that right now,” Hartigan told the St. Cloud Times. “I probably wouldn’t be able to make it, anyway. But it would be a nice little bonus if it happens.”