How Justin Schultz Decided The Fate Of Two Rookies At The 2012 NHL Draft


It’s been pretty quiet since June 30th, especially if you’re an Oilers fan. Sam Gagner received a short but sweet 1yr x 3.2MM deal, that with a few qualifying offers here & there, but quiet. This wasn’t the case 1 month ago in Edmonton, oh no, not by a long shot. Within 1 week the Oilers were able to acquire the best bang for your buck & potentially most explosive players available, one at the draft, the other the day before July 1. So, just in case you’ve crawled out from under a rock, here’s what happened.

Just 6 days prior to Justin Schultz signing a 3yr Entry Level Contract with the Oilers, Nail Yakupov was the concensus #1 pick in the draft. Leading up to the draft in Pittsburgh, 9/10 of the major scouting groups had him pegged as #1. The Oilers left many fans holding their breath with teeth clenched & knuckles whitened that the management group might screw it all up by picking the “unofficial #1 defenseman” available at the same draft, Ryan Murray. When the announcement was finally made & Yakupov was an Oiler, all of Oilers nation let out a collective sigh of relief. I’m here to tell you, that the latter almost didn’t happen. Before I go any further I’d like everyone to know a few things about me. I’m an oilfield guy, have been since October of 1996 which coincidently was the year that coincided with the Oilers exiting what was known as “The Dark Years”. I’m a fan, just like you so I’m not trying to be a fake hockey insider whose sole purpose is to draw attention to myself or the fine folks here at Oil on Whyte. I could talk Oilers hockey 24/7/365. I found myself catching up with an old buddy at work, in the middle of nowhere doing  just that this past Sunday & quite fortunate to have this juicy story fall into my lap.

What I’m about to tell you was inside info given to me by a 10yr colleague & friend of mine who has spent days upon weeks at various hockey fantasy camps from Kelowna to Niagara Falls.  He is a close friend of one member of the Oilers current scouting staff who joined him during many of those trips. The  many after hours stories he’s told me over the years, no one could’ve made up. So when he & I talk Oilers hockey together,  I tend to do more of the listening.

So knowing his source, I asked him the following, basic question: Was Yakupov always the #1 pick of the Oilers?

He gave me his answer by quoting the source as follows; No. We were going to pick Murray. We wanted to utilize this draft on a needs basis. Our needs at the time were simple, we needed to get better on the blueline via the draft since we are always overlooked by the big names on July 1. Schultz was in the mix for us but we didn’t want to get caught chasing unicorns & as great as Yakupov looked, we were dying to get better defensively not just for next season but the future as well, so for us the only way we could guarantee that was through the draft.

No $hit was my exact response. Not surprising though & really it all made perfect sense. The easiest way for the Oilers to rebuild is through the draft, or trade one of the current young guns, which would most likely go over like a lead balloon in Oil Country. Let us keep in mind, there weren’t  just random people tweeting out how the Oilers were going to draft Murray, it was the headliners as well. Guys like, Darren Dreger & Bob MacKenzie were speculating this was indeed the case but what really clinched it for me was hearing it from Bob Stauffer & Dan Tencer, who are no Darren & Bob by any means but are as close to the Oilers as anyone. It was mentioned by so many high end MSM members that it couldn’t be overlooked as not happening.

My next question was obvious & the answer, a real gamechanger.

So what changed their minds?

Sub-quote: The Schultz camp called us once word got out that we were going to draft Murray. They were clear on their intentions to sign with us at that point & told us we’d be better off drafting Nail because Justin wanted to be an Oiler from the word go. This made all of us, very, very happy & the decision to draft Yakupov was then a slam-dunk. So there you have it & that’s how it all went down at the 2012 NHL draft. Somehow, someway, Tambellini pulled off a major coup by getting both Schultz & Yakupov via 1 simple phone call. Could you imagine if Schultz had turned face after a verbal agreement with Tambellini? That would’ve made the Schultz/Ducks feud look like a kindergarten squabble.

So I know you’re probably wondering, why did Schultz bother meeting with other teams then? The Schultz camp might have been meeting with other teams as promised by maintaining  professionalism through common coutesy & there’s no question the other teams would’ve felt completely shunned by not even meeting with Justin.  By in large, I think that most UFA’s have a really good idea who they want to play for before July 1. Take Zach Parise & Ryan Suter as the most recent examples.

Another question I would’ve asked, If the Oilers were always his 1st choice wouldn’t Schultz have signed there anyway ??

There’s several ways to look at this angle. Maybe Justin didn’t want to share the spotlight & maybe the call from Wayne Gretzky & Paul Coffey led him to believe that he, by himself, could be that go-to-guy at the blueline. My thought is simple, dishing the puck to & from Yakupov will do his offensive statistics more than Murray would have, not to mention down the road. Also, with Murray out of the picture, there’s 1 less player with the Oilers to keep Schultz from being in the top 4 during this upcoming season. Very few people give Tambellini credit for what he pulled off in the last week of June & a part of me thinks there was an outside chance that they used the Murray to Edmonton tweets as a ploy to reel Schultz in. If they did, it was pure genius & if it was by coincidence, then Oilers owe Twitter BIG TIME!! Regardless how it was done it’s done & the Oilers pulled off what may turn into a better move than Parise & Suter in Minnesota for the next 13yrs. Before you even ask, don’t, the answer is no. I can’t reveal my source because if I did it would ruin the vast circle of friends that he has worked very hard to create & besides I’m not very good at throwing people I dislike under the bus, let alone close friends.