We won’t know until later today at the earliest if the Edmonton Oilers have convinced Justin Schultz this is the place to begin his NHL career, but with word Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey were part of the pitch, we know the Oilers have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at the kid trying to get him.

The pursuit of the former Wisconsin Badger defenseman on the eve of free agency season included having a contingent of president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, assistant Craig MacTavish, GM Steve Tambellini, coach Ralph Krueger and Taylor Hall camped at the offices of Newport Sports in Toronto.

With the Oilers pitching alongside the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, we got word yesterday from Darren Dreger of TSN that Gretzky and Coffey put in calls to Schultz and agent Wade Arnott. This, via Dreger’s Twitter account:

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"Wayne Gretzky confirms he called Justin Schultz as part of the Oilers push to sign the young d-man.Paul Coffey also part of the Edmtn pitch."

"Hello, Justin. This is Wayne Gretzky calling . . ."


Say what you want about Lowe, but those phone calls by Gretzky and Coffey to Schultz and Arnott only get made because of the history and relationship he has with his former teammates. That, of course, got me thinking about all of the bitching and moaning from some corners of the Oilers fan base about the ties that bind the Boys On The Bus. I later tweeted:

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"Are those Oilers fans who bitch endlessly about Edmonton’s old boys network unhappy Gretzky and Coffey called Schultz?" That drew a flurry of responses, including the following:

Colin [email protected]: @Robin_Brownlee Has K Lowe ever played this card before. If not, they must really want this kid ?#Oilers?

Lee [email protected]@Robin_Brownlee Probably not but man are Canuck fans pissed off Would it be too much for Harold Snepsts or Tony Tanti to pick up the phone?

Enrico [email protected] @Robin_Brownlee It’s ridiculous and desperate that the Oilers are calling in every big gun imaginable to sign a freaking college player.

Daniel [email protected]@Robin_Brownlee @TPS_Guy What would really put us over the top would be a visit from @PaulinaGretzky

Dean [email protected] @Robin_Brownlee great point. We love the club when its used in a favorable way. We loath it when it smells of narcism

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On and on it went.


Schultz and Arnott won’t make a decision based solely on a trip down memory lane to the glory days of the Oilers by way of phone calls from No. 99 and Coffey. They’ll decide which team to sign a two-year entry level deal with based on the best opportunity – to play, to win and, it follows, to cash in on a second contract down the line.

That said, Gretzky, some 13 years removed from his last NHL game, still has lots of juice and a call from him packs a lot of punch. As somebody said last night, "It’s kind of like getting a phone call from God." Yes. Yes, it is.

I’m guessing Gretzky and Coffey drew plenty of parallels to the days when they were kids coming up in Edmonton and to what the Oilers are trying to build now with Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov. Boys On the Bus II? A stretch? Sure. But it can’t do anything but help Edmonton’s chances when the chips fall.

Let’s keep in mind Schultz hasn’t played a minute in the NHL and that he’s not going to step in and provide all the answers to the questions about the Oilers defensive corps. In the fold or not, Tambellini still has plenty of work to do to bolster a blue line that isn’t good enough or deep enough. Still, getting his name on a contract, landing a highly prized free agent, would be a big box checked off on Tambellini’s To-Do List.

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If that happens, the Boys On The Bus, the old boys club frustrated fans have diminished and ridiculed as the glory days have faded into the distant past, will have played a hand in it.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Stack Pad Save

    Great day for the Oil. We got some good looking young defence men in the system, Petry, Smid, Shultz, Marincin, Musil, Klefbom, Gernat, Teubert. This seems like a good crop to garner a very good set of 6 defence men for the next 5-10 years. Looking forward to training camp with this group, going to be some tough battles for these young guys to earn a spot.

  • kdunbar

    I am not putting all my hopes in thi kid, but I do look at this like getting both Yak and Murray in the draft. Great additions to the growing young team.


  • oldhippy

    @KleptoKlown. It gives us a young 3/4 defenceman. It will also make it easier to sign a veteran UFA defenceman.Maybe even Salo.

    Now a few if’s;

    If Yakupov can garner 25 goals, If we can sign a solid veteran Defenceman, If Dubnyk can be a .914 goalie with expanded minutes, If Eberle repeats his last season, If Hall and RNH build on last season, If Whitney can get back to 90%, If Belanger plays as well as he did in Phoenix, If Hemskey plays like he did pre injury…..There are a few other if’s but some of these if’s will come to pass. If all of them fell together, we make the playoffs.

    There are other reasons for optimism as well. Phoenix and Nashville are probably losing significant players. Detroit will have to learn to play without Lidstrom. Dallas has money issues. It is now up to Tambellini to fulfill one of those if’s and sign a UFA Defenceman.

  • Greg Stink | ESPN

    Comment just posted on the canucksarmy page regarding Schultz snubbing the Canucks:

    “#3 erick June 30 2012, 01:40PM 0 props
    Wow, this guy is cutting off his nose to spite his face! If he signed with the Canucks he could have really put himself in a place to succeed. Even without the playing time “guarantee”, with a little work he could have become the next ehrhoff and have been signing a big retirement contract in a couple years with any team in the league with 10 mil in his first year. Instead, if he goes to the oilers, he might get ice time, but without vigneault deployment, a lot of that oilers ice time will be wasted and magnify any defensive liabilities that he may have. Should have been the Sedin’s caddy on the powerplay, it has been near tops in the league for a couple of years now and would have presented him with an opportunity to shine. He’ll just tarnish in Edmonton and then chase a borderline contract in a couple years once the sheen has worn off in oil town.”

    I think this is the typical response that will come from teams and their fans that didn’t land Schultz. I like the part where he mentions that Schultz only chance was to succeed was under Vigneault and how he missed out on the chance to be on the Canucks power play. From what I remember, the oilers power play has been pretty damn good lately.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      That’s actually more cogent (on the surface) than I would have thought.

      If anything… he’ll get way more time at evens and on the PP in Edm. if his concern is building a resume to a second contract… Edm was clearly the best place to do so.

      • Greg Stink | ESPN

        I have been living in downtown Vancouver for the past 2 years, I hear it all the time. A lot of fans also think they are going to get a huge return for Loungo and that Gillis is just waiting for the best offer. I don’t think it’s very likely, only because of the contract. I do think he is a competent #1 goalie.

        Can’t wait to watch some Edmonton Vancouver games here at the Oilers bar !

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Robin, from your conversations with scouts/coaches ect, would you say Schultz is ahead, behind or roughly equivalent to Petry right now?

  • oldhippy

    I am going to start celebrating Canada Day right now! The Oilers, with their no hold barred effort to sell this kid on Edmonton, have sent a message to their fans about their commitment to winning. They have also sent a message to the rest of the league that Edmonton is a prime destination for top players who want to be part of something special.
    Can’t wait for Justin to come to town and get the attention he deserves. Yak needs a break anyway.
    First we win the lottery, then we draft the Yak, hire Krueger and now we sign Justin Schultz. Hell of an off season. A few good moves on Sunday and Oiler Nation will be rocking all the way to training camp.
    Eat your heart out Calgary. And Vancouver….and Toronto. There’s a new bunch on the block.

  • Greg Stink | ESPN

    I’m just happy guys are choosing to play here again… Last time that happened we got an unexpected cup run! Next up free agency tomorrow looking a whole lot brighter for players perhaps choosing Edmonton over big bucks to hop on board the oil train… Today is Christmas and tomorrow is boxing day To get the battery’s for the new toys the oil have to play with

  • oldhippy

    @KleptoKlown. The numbers can be managed. And every rebuild is different. The dynamics are a little different. Byufligen situation doesn’t really fit and that was the one player that stirred the Black Hawks, and drove the play up ice.

    As I have posted before, the numbers can be managed. 4 @ $6.5m, 4 @ $5.5m, 2 @ $4m and $4m for the goalie. That is your first two lines and your top 4 D, and your starting goalie. Total cost $60m. Leaving $12.2m to bring the team 11 players and one back up goalie. The 7th D, the 4th line, and the two black aces at forward would all be guys signing for $600 to $900k. (think Potter and Petrell) all for under $5m. Leaves about $7.4m for 5 skaters and a back up goalie. Tight but doable. And that allows for 8 players to be paid more than Ryan Kesler!

    I love math!

    • Time Travelling Sean

      That’s if they get 6.5M. Tavares is a steal at 5.5M but Toews and Kane are 6.3M ea.

      5.75M-6.3M are the brackets for our big 3-4 if Yak is any good, and who knows, they may take a discount.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I’d like to point out chicago had their troubles because the cap stayed flat right after they signed some large contracts, and had then had more relatively large contracts to sign directly after.

    We’re likely to be in a completely different situation.