Report: Justin Schultz Leaves School

Justin Schultz, the high-end prospect who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, appears to have started the clock ticking on his departure from the Ducks’ organization today.

This from TSN Insider Bob McKenzie’s Twitter account this morning:

Of course, the possibility exists that Schultz just wants to start his professional career with the Anaheim Ducks. Certainly Ducks’ G.M. Bob Murray has been publicly optimistic about that possibility; here’s what he said a little under two weeks ago regarding Schultz:

Last week, I had a good chat with him. I think Justin has got his exams and he’ll figure out what he wants to do after he gets his schoolwork done. He wanted to concentrate on school and I think he gets done for the year sometime next week. We expect to know something on that in the next little while.

While Schultz may choose to sign with the Ducks during that 30-day window McKenzie mentions, it seems improbable that he will do so. Had the defenseman chosen to leave college once his hockey season was done, he would already have played NHL hockey – that’s how eager Anaheim was to get him on their blue line. It’s possible he was just that committed to his studies in life sciences, but it seems more probable that he was eyeing the same route to free agency that Blake Wheeler took to land in Boston.

As for where he’ll end up, nobody seems to know. This hasn’t stopped a great deal of speculation, since Schultz could end up as a top-pairing NHL defenseman down the road; every team in the league would love to land that kind of high-end, NHL-ready prospect for nothing.

Oilers fans haven’t been immune. Back in March, Bob McKenzie expressed an opinion that the Edmonton Oilers had the best chance of landing Schultz, and that he would be a good fit for the team.

Of course, fellow TSN panelists Aaron Ward and Marc Crawford chose Detroit and Toronto. Schultz is from Kelowna, and the Vancouver Canucks are a top team – might he be a fit there? His head coach, Mike Eaves, coached for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, played in Calgary and Minnesota, and was drafted by St. Louis – will he be suggesting a destination to the defenseman? The tea leaves can be arranged and rearranged in 30 different directions; the reality is that we’ll know where he’s going to sign right around the time he lets it be known where he’s going to sign. Speculation in the meantime is just speculation.

I don’t expect that to stop more speculation up until July 1. As has been made abundantly clear – both by his head coach and the people who have watched him closely – he’s a very good young player. More than that, if he does leave the Ducks, somebody’s going to get him for virtually nothing.

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