Justin Schultz: 21-Year-Old Phenom Is Crowning Jewel of 2012 Free Agency

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJune 27, 2012

DETROIT - APRIL 08:  Justin Schultz #6 of the Wisconsin Badgers tries to keep the puck from Dan Ringwald #6 of the RIT Tigers on April 8, 2010 during the semifinals of the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Wisconsin defeated RIT 8-1.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

After turning his back on the Anaheim Ducks, Justin Schultz has immediately become the most sought-after free agent available.

In a free agency class that also features Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the value of signing such a talented player who could become the face of a franchise to such a low-level deal makes him the crowning jewel of the class.

The NHL looks to welcome in a budding star, and the question is: where will he sign?

The 21-year-old certainly has options, as TSN commentator Bob McKenzie is reporting that no less than 26 teams have expressed interest in the defenseman.

 

26 NHL teams have expressed interest in UFA dman Justin Schultz, a shortlist of 5, give or take a team or two, likely by this afternoon.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 27, 2012

 

While we can only assume that the Ducks are not among the 26 teams since Schultz has already said farewell to the organization, that would mean that 26 of the other 29 teams are all after this kid.

And why not?

As a rookie he will be subjected to an entry-level contract of $925,000, which is an absolute steal for a player of his caliber.

Schultz is an offensive-minded defender who was a stand-out at the University of Wisconsin. In his last two seasons with the Badgers he recorded 91 points in 78 games for an average of 1.17 points per game.

He is an excellent defender who can also impact the game on the offensive end. He is a complete player who will be a stud in the NHL in a few years, and well-worth $925,000.

Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now has speculated that Edmonton sits fourth on Schultz's list behind the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

 

Personally I think the Oilers sit 4th in pursuit of Schultz. Vancouver leads the way imo (home-field advantage). Leafs and Rangers 2nd and..

— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) June 26, 2012

 

While this is just speculation, that would mean that these four are all in line to compete for the biggest free agent of the year.

The best part about Schultz's free agency is that it does not restrict teams from signing other free agents. His initial contract is so minuscule that it would be possible to sign both him and another great free agent like Suter or Parise.

Everything about this kid makes him more and more popular with NHL GMs, and there is no doubt that he is the biggest free agent in this year's class.