Justin Schultz would solve a lot of problems for the Edmonton Oilers

Jonathan Willis
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

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 TigerUnderGlass
April 27 2012, 03:39PM
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@Rick

Are you really criticizing the suggestion of signing someone who is a good bet because they are not going to fix the team all at once?

There is not a person alive who thinks Schultz is the complete solution to the Oilers woes, but he has the potential to be part of the solution. Why is that not good enough for you?

Yours is the mindset that almost traded for Heatley. There are no magic bullets.

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#52 kdunbar
April 27 2012, 03:40PM
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Question?

Are teams even allowed to make trades during the play-offs?

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#53 Asian on Oilers Nation
April 27 2012, 04:56PM
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I hope Justin Schultz isn't reading any (some) of these comments. He probably feels offended that no one can correctly spell his last name...

SCHULTZ, not SHULTZ. :/

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#54 Rick
April 27 2012, 05:21PM
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As much as I appreciate you telling me what my mindset is, it's probably best that you comprehend my point first.

Anyways I'm out.

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#55 @Oilanderp
April 27 2012, 06:09PM
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Ok but where is playoff prediction project round 2?

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#57 Cowbell_Feva
April 28 2012, 01:20AM
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Maybe I've missed the bus, but how is it that Edmonton is such a prime locale for a young guy to choose from-given we are the furthest north with the worst track record over the past 3 years??

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#58 OiLz
April 28 2012, 01:51AM
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the last sentence in the article...exactly why this move is not happening...

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