April 27 2012 12:45AM
This summer, it’s highly likely that prized Anaheim Ducks defensive prospect Justin Schultz will become an unrestricted free agent. While the NHL’s other 29 teams – including the Oilers – would all undoubtedly love to get a hold of him, Edmonton might be a uniquely appropriate fit.
If Schultz sees things that way, the Oilers could address a lot of problems immediately.
First, why might Schultz consider the Oilers? Do we have any evidence that he’s leaning toward landing in Edmonton?
On the second point, there’s no way of knowing exactly what Schultz is thinking right now. However, TSN Insider Bob McKenzie – as connected a reporter as there is in hockey – said last month that he thought the Edmonton Oilers had the best chance at landing Justin Schultz.
At a certain level, it makes sense. Schultz will need to sign an entry-level deal with whichever team drafts him, which means a two-way contract that could see him demoted to the minors. The best way to prevent that from happening is to join a team with an anemic defense – and for once, that weakness might work in the Oilers’ favour. Additionally, Schultz would presumably like to play for a team that has some chance of competing in the next few years. It’s not easy to find a team that combines potential with a miserable defense, and the Oilers are uniquely positioned in that regard.
Schultz currently plays college hockey at the University of Wisconsin, but he’s from Kelowna originally, so playing in Western Canada might appeal.
What would the Oilers be getting? In the link above, I include profiles by McKeen’s Hockey as well as prospect expert Corey Pronman, who describes Schultz as “filthy good” and having the ability to “control the game.”
As it happens, though, we’ve had two posts up at the Nation Network worth reading. First, there’s Jason Gregor’s conversation with Mike Eaves, Schultz’s coach in Wisconsin. It’s an excellent post that I highly recommend reading, but one of the things that struck me was Eaves’ commentary on Schultz’s character:
[H]e's wired as a real competitive young man. When he was a freshman, we were playing North Dakota. There was a little incident at the end of the game, and he wanted to jump off the bench and go get involved and take care of his teammates and such. He has a real fiery kind of competitive edge within him, and that's rare when you combine it with the fact that he is a very skilled hockey player.
There’s also Jeff Angus’ take on Canucks Army; Angus spoke with Chuck Schwartz (who covers the University of Wisconsin Badgers) about Schultz. Schwartz had nothing but good things to say about Schultz:
No question that Schultz is NHL ready right now. In my opinion he's unquestionably the top blue-liner playing college hockey right now. Remember that Schultz was a first -team All-American last season, and was widely considered to have a better season than Gardiner, who has had a pretty nice rookie season in Toronto. He's ready to make the move.
Schultz is a 21-year old right-handed shot with good size, offensive flair, and a burgeoning defensive game. He’d offer the Oilers a second blue-liner in the same mold as Jeff Petry, but one with an even higher ceiling to his game (Petry’s college numbers at the same age, while respectable, pale in comparison to Schultz’s). Along with Petry and Smid, the addition of Schultz would fill three of the top-four spots on the Oilers long-term plan.
Schultz could be a cornerstone piece in a position of need, and along with Nail Yakupov would make this summer a pretty clear win for the Oilers organization.
Now, Steve Tambellini just needs to convince him to sign in Edmonton.
This week by Jonathan Willis at the Nation Network
- The Oilers should sign Josh Harding this summer
- Roberto Luongo asks for a trade
- Red Wings' G.M. Ken Holland on player development
- Team Canada takes shape - and is looking pretty good
- Anton Lander: Putting the genie back in the bottle
- Milan Lucic and drafting "Coke Machines"
- Tyler Pitlick's future with the Oilers
- Does the Presidents' Trophy matter?
- Raffi Torres suspended 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa
- Are the Oilers to small down the middle with Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins?
- Will Nail Yakupov's reckless style lead to injury?