Out of the Blue

This is Justin Schultz. In terms of adding a possible free agent for the Oilers this off-season, there are many things that make him an ideal target for the team.

So far during our look at solutions to the Oilers blue, we’ve concentrated on UFA’s, RFA’s and possible trade partners. In this case, we’re looking at a young man who may be about to use a loophole in the system to gain free agency before his first pro game.

I’m not going to go too far into the technicality that allows UFA status, but the current CBA says a player like Schultz can in fact inform his school (Wisconsin) he’s leaving, wait until summer when the option becomes available, and then sign a contract with one of the 30 available NHL teams.

There are limits on the dollars that can be spent for this player, so there’s nothing terribly unique about Edmonton’s offer in the form of cash. They do have an interesting opportunity for the young man, expressed well by Bob McKenzie last night in the NHL on tsn quiz. The question was:

Who is most likely to sign unrestricted free agent defenceman & blue-chip prospect Justin Schultz of Wisconsin?

McKenzie: I‘ll say the Edmonton Oilers because I think this Kelowna kid would be happy to play in Canada. I also think it would be great for him to grow old with guys like Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall and he’s the missing piece of the puzzle in Edmonton: power play quarterback.

Schultz is being described as one of the best prospects in the game, and his scouting report suggests a wide range of skills including size and speed. His Desjardins NHLE–the number implied by his current NCAA season if placed into the NHL–is 82, 15-25-40. In other words, he’d be at the front of the line offensively for the Oiler group (I’d also include Whitney and Petry as players who could hit 40 points from the current roster).


This recalls the old Oilers, the Sather Oilers. They pulled more good defensemen out of nowhere than Carter has liver pills. In fact, the golden era of Oiler hockey featured some guys who didn’t hit the big time on their draft day:


  • Paul Coffey, taken 6th overall in 1980
  • Kevin Lowe, taken 21st overall in 1979
  • Charlie Huddy, signed as a free agent in 1979 after passing through undrafted
  • Randy Gregg, signed October 1982 at age 26 after two years in Japan. Never drafted.
  • Lee Fogolin, acquired from Buffalo at the expansion draft.
  • Don Jackson, acquired in a hockey deal for Donny Murdoch.

So the Oilers got healthy in a hurry, by using the draft and several other avenues to acquire talent. Schultz would fall into the "Randy Gregg" or "Charlie Huddy" category in that he’ll be available to all NHL teams.


Could mean nothing. The other 29 teams have a story to tell and Edmonton’s future–while bright–is in the distance. A team like Pittsburgh, or Boston, or Vancouver could offer this player a chance to start in the penthouse and that’ has some appeal.

Still, there’s a chance and I’m sure the Oilers are preparing for the opportunity. There might also be some back room wheeling and dealing, whereby Edmonton sends an asset (pick or prospect) to Anaheim for the right to talk to this young man before everyone else gets a chance.

It’s risky, and a little daring. Sounds like something Glen Sather might have done 30 years ago.

Previously in the series:

  • RexLibris

    I’ve grown a little leery of these “best player outside the NHL” claims lately. Partly because after watching players like Bozak, Gustavsson, and Brunnstrom I’ve realized that being the best player outside the NHL still leaves a lot of bubble players who are perhaps better than you. (When J.F. Jacques has an NHL job, how good could Brunnstrom be, really?)

    That being said, while I am a bit squeamish about the character of a player who would put the screws to the team that drafted him as Schultz appears to be doing, the fact that he was drafted and developed in an NHL system and, were he an Oilers prospect, likely have played some NHL games this year, leads me to believe that he would indeed be a valuable addition.

    If he were to sign (and I’m not holding out hope like I did for Viktor Fasth – whatever happened to him?) then he almost immediately makes Peckham and Potter expendable and probably pushes Chorney and Plante out of the system as well.

    As for Bigos leaving, I guess I would have to think of it this way: would we win a trade of J. Schultz for Bigos?

    For anyone thinking that Tambellini doesn’t like the bold moves: we do remember that he traded Vishnovsky for Whitney, tried to sign Hossa, and offered Smid, Penner and Cogliano for Heatley, right? I wouldn’t put this outside of his abilities, but I suspect that he won’t do a deal unless it is in the best long-term interests of the Oilers.

    • bazmagoo

      I hear what you are saying but ask yourself this:

      If you had the choice between going to a team like the Oilers and making $800,000 playing in our top 7 d-men next season or signing with the Ducks and potentially making $80,000 playing for their AHL team because you wouldn’t have as much of an opportunity to make the top 7 d-men, which would you choose?

      $720,000 is life changing money!

      I’d prefer to think of it as a good ol’ Canadian kid choosing to play hockey in his home country :), not screwing the team that drafted him.

  • RexLibris

    Maybe LT should be in charge of scouting.

    I would like to think someone will put a charge up the GM’s *ss and something creative and progressive will be done and soon. The D has only three reliable players going forward imo (Smid, Petry and Schultz). The other three positions are up for grabs as far as I am concerned. Signing Potter and Sutton looks to me that Tamby is trying to avoid doing anything in the coming year regardless of what he says about this summer.

  • RexLibris

    Yes, sign up Jeff Schultz. Draft a forward, either Gregerenko or Galchenyuk who is also not small. Also with the prospects of Fedun at camp this fall and I am getting excited already with the new developments. Now just sign J. Schultz.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Money is a universal language.

    Katz needs to open that petty cash drawer and slip a 2 million dollar incentive bonus Justins way to put the Oilers offer at the forefront of his mind when the time comes.

    As for the rest of that two yr agreement it could go by the book. A token fair well offering like this would go along way to having him lean towards the Oiler offer.

    If you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t competing….period.

    • Time Travelling Sean

      I agree.

      A question though, is it allowed to say give Hemmer a 4 million dollar cheque to appear in a Rexall commercial? Then sign a 2 year 6M deal?

      I would think no, but never know.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I think the teams that can afford it are doing alot of this kind of stuffs. The cap is more or less just a guideline for the haves in this league. While the gettin’s good, the Oilers need to take more advantage of this unspoken language.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    *Sorry if this has been asked before, but I have been wondering if he is any relation to Nick Schultz. If he is then acquiring him in that trade for Gilbert shows more foresight than we could see then.

    I’m hoping that is the case as it would give him a big reason to choose us, that no other team has. That was what I thought Bob McKenzie he was going to say as one of the reasons for choosing us – but didn’t.