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.

  • nqmt

    Another way of looking at this is Gretzky and Coffey can go the personal side and tell Schultz that the benefit of having a group of elite talented young players is that they can grow up together and win together; that the friendships they forged during that time can last forever…ie the friendships that the boys on the bus have now

  • “I’ve read a lot about Schultz on these boards. Is there a particular reason why so many teams are after him, even though he has not yet played at this level? I am just wondering if the eventual buyer may be in for a letdown?”

    People expecting an instant impact from Schultz are setting the bar very high. That said, based on his college numbers and his age, he projects as a top-4 guy.

    Most people believe he can be a second-pairing guy right out of the blocks. How much better he becomes is the question.

  • paul wodehouse

    @ Q…

    Away from the dark parade in anticipation of the Schultz signing? or are you just enjoying your most beloved moniker again for the sixth time ???


    president of Q fan club operations

    southwestern ontario chapter

      • paul wodehouse

        oh nooooooo….i call Quicksilver ballet “Q” as i always have … he goes off half cocked at times and changes his screen name to some ‘dark’ thingy i don’t understand …it was just now that i saw him with his ‘old’ name up …sorry professor

        i’d tell you it was ok to go back under your rock but you’d think i was being an ass…so stay and enjoy the time when our GM can show us all how he stands in the background then takes all the credit for stuff if it goes well…

  • 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.

  • paul wodehouse

    The kids are going to get better. They’ll play the whole ice.

    The already signed D will get better. I cannot imagine Whitney not improving, he is much too professional, and far too competitive to not improve. Petry and Smid are there already. Oscar kliefblum may be ready to make the next step. Looked good to me at the world juniors. With Schultz “The Elder”‘ that makes 5. If we add ” the younger” That’s a pretty solid Top six. No number one but all solid 3 and 4 guys.

    Give Dubey the reins in the #1 goalie spot. Add “The Yak” in our top 9 and run three scoring lines.

    Shake and let age a couple of seasons. Enjoy many sweet drinks from lord Stanleys mug.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…. enjoy the limelight, Professor.lol

    Paul, with Schultz in the bag, the glass is half full again brother. The Oilers have turned the corner, keep Klefbom here as well, kicking and screaming if we have to.

    Who wouldn’t be in a positive mindset on this beautiful summer day.

  • justDOit

    BobMac tweets that NY is out of the Schultz running.

    Edit: As well as TO out of the running. You have to wonder how the Schultz camp is distributing their info…

  • 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.


  • 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 !

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    NY is throwing it out there that he is going with them. If that’s true, what happened to a “Canadian team”?
    As long as the bloody Canucks don’t get him, I’m good.

    And how do you look Gretz in the eye after saying no to the Oily boys?