Defenseman Justin Schultz, who earlier bypassed his final year of eligibility at the University of Wisconsin, recently signed a free-agent contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
The former Badgers blueliner from Kelowna, B.C., took advantage of a loophole in the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to USCHO.com. He used this to bypass signing with Anaheim, who drafted him four years ago, and pick the rebuilding Oilers instead.
Schultz, 21, was chosen 43rd overall by the Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but withdrew from school after the 2011-12 season was over. He then did not sign with Anaheim by June, which under the current CBA made him a free agent.
“To have him select the Oilers at this time speaks volumes to what people in the league, the players, are seeing," said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini to the Edmonton Sun on Saturday. "It’s confirmation that good things are happening."
A 6'1", 185-lb defender, Schultz recorded 16 goals and 28 assists for 44 points in 37 games last year for Wisconsin. In three seasons with the Badgers, he posted 40-73 for 113 points and 62 penalty minutes in 121 outings. He scored five game-winning goals in his tenure, and also registered 21 power-play tallies. As a freshman, he helped Wisconsin make it to the 2010 NCAA Championship game in Detroit, where the Badgers fell to Boston College at Ford Field.
A two-time All-America selection, All-WCHA choice, WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and Hobey Baker Award finalist, Schultz also led all NCAA Division I college defensemen in scoring the past two seasons while playing in Madison, Wis.
But he wanted to get back to his home country.
“I grew up in Canada and wanted to play in a Canadian city," he told the Sun. "And watching the Oilers go to the Cup run (in 2006), it looked like a pretty cool place to play. I fell in love right away."
The defenseman was also at least partially coaxed to Alberta by several individuals connected to the Oilers' glory years, including two of the NHL's all-time greats in Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, according to the Edmonton Journal.
“I don’t think I said one word when they called. I was in shock,” said Schultz. “For them to even take the time to call me, that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Schultz will now be looking to bolster the blue line on an Edmonton club that finished 32-40-10 overall last season, and which has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since coming within one victory of the organization's sixth Cup six years ago, when the Oilers lost to Carolina in seven games.
Of course, the Ducks aren't happy with the way things went down.
“This is unfair, not only for the organization, but it’s unfair for the Anaheim Duck fans,” said Ducks GM Bob Murray to the Orange County Register. regarding Schultz' loophole use. ”It’s unfair to other fans...We’re all aware of other players coming along that are in this situation. It’s just wrong. I sure hope the NHL realizes they dropped the ball big time.”
There could be some fireworks on Oct. 19 when Edmonton visits Anaheim and Schultz gets his first look at the organization he spurned for the Western Canadian prairie.
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