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Potential UFA Du Jour: Justin Schultz, Anaheim Ducks

Photo courtesy westsidewarriors.ca

2011-12 TEAM:  University of Wisconsin Badgers

POSITION:  Defence

DOB: 06 JUL 90 (will be 22 on October 1)

2011-12 NUMBERS:  16-28-44 with 12 PIM

2011-12 CAP: N/A

2011-12 SALARY:  N/A

THE FACTS

The 6’1″ 185 lb British Columbia native was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2008 NHL entry draft.  And that’s his professional career.

Schultz has just finished up his junior season at the University of Wisconsin, and another worst-kept secret is that he’s ready to forego the final season of eligibility to test the lucrative waters of free agency.  See, the Anaheim Ducks never got around to tendering a contract to Mr. Schultz.  If they don’t sign him by June 1st, he’s as free as a bird to sign with whomever he wants on July 1st.

That is, if he doesn’t go back and play in his senior season, which seems more and more unlikely to happen by the day.

WHAT DO YOU GET WITH JUSTIN SCHULTZ?

Everything looks better with a soundtrack or a music montage, it’s true.  The clip above was taken from Justin’s sophomore season, and you’ve got to like what you see.  Speedy defenceman with a willingness to take the shot, has 28 multi-point games, was a two-time Hobey Baker finalist for the top collegiate player.  All arrows are pointing in the right direction.

IS HE A GOOD FIT FOR THE OILERS?

In one word:  Maybe.

In two words:  Could be.

A few weeks back, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie went on to say that Edmonton could very well be the prime destination for Schultz.  It’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, that’s for certain.  Team needs a lot of help on defence (very true) and that Schultz could very well find himself in the top six on opening night.  And if Schultz ready to be a top six guy, a 2-way deal could get him some time in OKC.

But after six years without the playoffs, I’m quite the impatient fellow.  If Schultz is signed to the two year deal, I want him to be able to step right in and contribute, or at least fight for a top six spot.  There’s one more year until super Swede Oscar Klefbom, and I want something that will help stop the bleeding until then.  I’ll well admit I haven’t seen enough footage of Schultz to know if he’s NHL ready, and if he’s not, I’m less likely to be interested in offering him a contract.  By the time his two year contract would be up, he’d be 24.  Defencemen tend to take longer to mature than forwards (and goaltenders take forever), and if this team takes a shot on Schultz only to spend a year in OKC,  they’ll need another NHL guy to fill his spot in Edmonton.

DOLLARS AND SENSE

The risk/reward factor is very good for the Oilers here.  While Justin Schultz would be free to sign with any team come July 1st, his maximum salary would be a rookie salary of about $1M for two seasons.  Schultz would become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.  Let’s be honest with ourselves here, if for whatever reason Justin Schultz makes it to Edmonton and it doesn’t work out, two years of Justin Schultz would cost less than Cam Barker did for one year.  That’s a big plus.

Schultz is also one of the more likely free agents Edmonton has a chance to land.  I say that because there’s no long term commitment here (2 years to start), so if things do go poorly, it’s not like they’ll have to buy out another player like they did with Souray.  Plus, it won’t cost eleventy billion dollars to get him.  I hope the welcome wagon is rolled out really hard the week of July 1.

Schultz is a guy you want to have cautious optimism about.  If his desire is to come back to Canada and have a good shot at making a club with some tremendous talent on offence and some solid minutes, then the Oilers might be the best place to start.  Don’t hang the ‘saviour’ tag on his doorstep if he finds his way to Edmonton.  Rather, he’s worth the risk, and has the potential to yield a great reward.

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