NHL Free Agency: Justin Schultz Ducks Anaheim and Heads to Edmonton Oilers
Like an up-and-coming oil baron full of youthful swagger, the Edmonton Oilers have made a huge statement Saturday with the apparent signing of prized free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz, as reported by Lisa Dillman of The Los Angeles Times. Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, Schultz never agreed to terms with the team.
Schultz joins a trio of first-round draft picks including this year's first overall selection, Nail Yakupov. New Oilers coach Ralph Krueger will have a wealth of talent at his fingertips with lots of room to grow.
Schultz will be a rookie, but the big (former) Wisconsin Badger is tapped by experts to be an NHL-ready prize. He comes with great puck-handling skills, a great work ethic and is a lock to be a top-four defenseman.
Schultz used a loophole in the the current NHL collective bargaining agreement, which allowed him to stay in school after playing an extra year of junior hockey. As long as he never agreed to terms with the organization that drafted him, he was eligible for free agency after his third year in school.
Ironically, Schultz's fourth projected NHL game will be hosted by the team he was selected to play for. Ducks general manager Bob Murray, who, even through the draft, never abandoned hope for Schultz's signature, was left puzzled two weeks ago, saying Schultz had given "every indication that he wanted to play for Anaheim" in an interview with NHL Live on NHL Network (h/t Dillman).
Schultz cannot officially sign his NHL rookie deal—two years at $925,000—til Sunday when the free-agent season officially opens.
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