Justin Schultz was one of the most highly sought after free agents in the NHL this offseason. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if most hockey fans haven’t heard of him. This is mostly due to the fact he’s never played a second of an NHL game yet. Despite this fact, he had several teams after him, but only one managed to sign him. That team is the Edmonton Oilers.
The circumstances that led to this is unusual. Schultz has been playing for the University of Wisconsin the past three seasons. He’s had quite a bit of success as well. The last two seasons he has been the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, and he has averaged over a point per game from the blueline as well. In 2008, he was drafted 43rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks. In May, he “de-registered” at Wisconsin, triggering a situation where, if the Ducks did not sign or trade him in a 30-day window, he would become an unrestricted free agent. So, that’s how we got to this point.
Schultz turns 22 next week, so teams were getting the chance to sign a young, talented blueliner with a proven track record at the college level. As such, it isn’t surprising that he generated a bit of buzz. The talk was he wanted to sign with a Canadian team, and that is what Edmonton happens to be. They are also a young, up-and-coming team loaded with talent, including the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Nail Yakupov. What they didn’t have however, was much in the way of defensive talent. Schultz helps change that.
This is a good get for the Oilers. They got to draft another forward, but they added a young defenseman as well. It’s a bit of a gamble, but no more than any young player. It was definitely a worthwhile signing for Edmonton, and it should work out for them to some degree. Now, a very unusual occurrence is in the books, and Justin Schultz is an Edmonton Oiler. The rest of free agency kicks off tomorrow when more known names will be signing new, and in some cases pricey, deals.