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

  • 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?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I’ve always loved the fact that the Oilernation banner picture of the Stanley Cup features Lee Fogolin’s name prominently, and now we’ve got that classic picture of Gretz, Lowe and Fogey on Jasper Ave. to go with it.

    I was a neighbor of the Fogolin family back in the day (indeed he brought the Cup to my house the night the Oil won it for the first time). I know he was so disappointed when Slats traded him back to Buffalo. But he remains in Edmonton, and I suspect he remains an Oiler at heart.

    It would be great to see him back in some sort of alumni role.

    Robin, any thoughts on why the arguably toughest Captain in Oiler history stays away from team invovement so much? Or is he not welcome for some reason?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Is this whole thing not unlike the ole Lindros-Quebec snub? I wonder how many more guys are going to pull a “Schultz” in the future (especially those drafted by CBJ or CAL!). With that said, I do hope the Oil can get this guy. We need all the help we can get on D. But, can this guy live up to all they hype??

  • The Ducks sent Scott Niedermayer to sell Schultz on staying with Anaheim. A phone call from Edmonton’s HOF players won’t change his mind, but it helps the cause.

    Has anyone noticed Ryan Smyth’s absence from the new ETS bus logo’s?

  • Slapshot

    I just hope that the Schultz camp knows what they are doing,nothing like setting the bar to high for schultz before he even has played a minute in the NHL,the pressure on Schultz to standout and perform will be very high.Which ever team gets him, hopefully it will be worth all this,and Schultz lives up to all the hype.

  • D


    A good business move to use the organization’s contacts to acquire an asset – it’s something that happens in the corporate world all the time.

    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?

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      It’s a good question. Some thoughts in no particular order.

      1) cheap. he’s going to be on a ELC which is limited in terms of $

      2) sweepstakes. he used the bug in the cba to go UFA over Anaheim. that in itself creates a hoop-la. It would be like if Petry went straight from college to the free market… we would be pissed and a lot of teams would be interested in a young (but “ready”) prospect (although he’s considered further along in development than Petry was I believe at this point in his career)

      3) he’s a “blue chipper” or basically the scouts all consider him a plug and play… you don’t have to wait to ice him in the NHL

      4) he’s got a ton of up-side as an offensive D with vision. and he’s on the right side, which we need.

  • Dan the Man

    13 years since Gretzky last played an NHL game…wow, time flies. It sure doesn’t feel like it.

    Strickland says it’s between Oilers, Sens and one other team. Hope this works out.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Regardless of what happens, this is a sign that the worm is finally starting to turn for the Oilers. 30 teams wanted him, and the Oilers are finalists.

    Something special is being built here and the rest of the NHL knows it, imho.

    If he doesn’t come here I suspect it will be because he wanted to play close to home(Vancouver) or with his buddy(ies) in Toronto or New York.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    However this works out, we can’t say it was from lack of effort on the Oilers behalf. Management has put everything they had into landing this kid and more.

    Would be a great moment for Edmonton, like putting the back in business sign up in the windows again at the Oiler offices.

    Those were some hard miles on Colby Armstrong to date. With the Leafs buying him out i think the Oilers could sure use a guy of his skillset here in Edmonton.

  • Dan the Man

    Make the Schultz (or agent) call today , and Oilers have more time to lure other UFA’s , trades , etc. for upcoming season . The sooner the better for all concerned i believe .