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UFA spotlight — Justin Schultz

Jun 26, 2012, 12:19 PM EDT

Justin Schultz

All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.

Justin Schultz (D)

Age: 21

2011-12 cap hit: N/A

The skinny:

After Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, he’s the most sought after UFA on the market. Which is unusual, because he’s never played a game in the NHL.

Schultz was originally drafted in 2007 by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round; however, he never signed with the club and has since blossomed with the Wisconsin Badgers into a potential “top-end defenseman,” according to former Flames GM Craig Button.

The word that’s often used when describing Schultz is “poise.” He’s the type of defenseman that can control the pace of the game and is cool under pressure. His skating is excellent; he has a great shot; and he’s no liability in his own end.

Schultz reportedly wants to sign with a team that can guarantee him a roster spot and playing time. So, where could he end up?

Vancouver is a potential landing spot, as Schultz is a Kelowna, BC, native.

Edmonton is close to home as well, and signing with the Oilers would give him the opportunity to develop with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov.

Senators GM Bryan Murray said he thinks “it’s down to 3-5 teams, and I believe we’re one of those teams.”

Red Wings GM Ken Holland hopes to sell Schultz on the “tremendous opportunity” in Detroit.

The Maple Leafs, Flyers and Rangers are also believed to be in the mix.

Schultz can’t officially sign until July 1, but he can listen to pitches this week.

More UFA spotlights

Ryan Suter

Zach Parise

Jason Garrison

Jiri Hudler

  1. mclovinhockey - Jun 26, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Play the numbers, the Atlantic has made it to the finals 4 of the last 5 years, it’s been east west east west for at least the last 8 years, if he wants to win a cup his first year I would say go with NYR or the Flyers…. The rangers seem to be less of a chance for a roster spot…. I know he said he wants to be a leaf or Canuck so I am guessing those are where he will sign, but if he wants to win the cup statistically I would say sign in the Atlantic…. With Philly if he wants to develop better and play more.

  2. leepetertk - Jun 26, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    How this plays out will be extremely interesting. How will the NHL clubs present their roster spot options to him?

    In Toronto, he would probably play with Jake Gardiner and push Liles, Komisarek, and Franson down the depth chart. The selling point being playing with your former defensive teamate Gardiner.

    In Edmonton he instantly becomes an important piece on a team stockpiled in offensive fowards, but thin on defencemen. Is he ready to be this team’s #1 or #2 defenseman?

    In Vancouver, he occupies the Sami Salo position: right-handed shot alongside Alex Edler, first powerplay, top-four defenceman. A lot of instant responsibility in a hockey-mad market.

    He fills positions in Detroit and Philadelphia, but not the superstar void left by Lidstrom and Pronger respectively. Don’t think either of them will sell him on being the next Lidstrom or Pronger just yet, but they (and everybody else) could use a young defenseman.

    Every team could use a young defenceman, but he has not even played an NHL game. Does he help teams that want to win now? Edmonton seems like the logical choice for a young defenseman. Wherever he goes, it will generate a lot of interest.

  3. elvispocomo - Jun 26, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Definitely lots of action recently (some of it from fake sources via twitter and such) with lots of suggestion he’s going to Vancouver.

    Anaheim certainly has talent, and room for a young star like Schultz, so I’m not sure why he wouldn’t want to sign with the team that drafted him unless he’s decided he’s going to play for the team closest to his hometown (it’s a 3 hour drive to Vancouver from West Kelowna) that also happens to be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup.

    There is an argument to be made for Edmonton with their young talent where he’d likely be given top minutes. Toronto isn’t close to homeand hasn’t made the playoffs in 7 years, but there’s a small chance he’d really like to play with Gardiner (his former teammate) even though they’d be pretty soft. I don’t see the other teams being a factor as they can’t buy him with a big deal due to the ELC restrictions.

    If that wasn’t the case, someone would overpay, but all they can do now is make a trade for his rights and try to get an early start on July 1.

  4. bcisleman - Jun 26, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    The above list should be amended to include pretty much every team in the NHL. Love to see him on the Isles. Believe he’s a RHD. He’d have a great mentor & pairing partner in captain Mark Streit. Isles would then have a nice balance between two talented veterans in Streiter and Vis and two talented kids in Schultz and Hammer. That would make the Isles’ top four comparable with any in the NHL.

  5. ray2013 - Jun 26, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    I think this whole situation is a bit screwy, to be honest. Playing defence in the NHL is one of the toughest positions to play. Most NHL defencemen take several seasons in the minors to familiarize themselves with all of the technical and conditioning requirements that are needed to play defence at a pro level. And as a player coming from college hockey, there are a lot of areas for Schultz to grow.

    Who is to say that he might not be better served playing in the minors for a season or two just to acclimatize to the speed and strength of pro players, not to mention the much longer pro season? And yet teams are willing to overlook all of the areas Schultz will need to develop in order to guarantee him a roster spot and playing time?

    If he is as good as advertised, perhaps he can make the jump, but I still think he would be better served with no guarantees on a roster spot or playing time. Make him earn them, like everyone else has to. That would also eliminate any locker-room problems that might result from a rookie making demands to an organization.

  6. danphipps01 - Jun 26, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    So, um, if the Pens are so gung-ho about Suter and Parise, why haven’t they said anything about this guy? Seriously, I get that he’s not going to be quite as good as Suter in the short term, but he’s also going to cost maybe half as much even WITH bonuses. Seriously, you could sign him to a huge, incentive-laden ELC comparable to Seguin’s and he’d still only cost what Suter did as an RFA – around $3.5 million, while Suter supposedly wants seven or more.

  7. mclovinhockey - Jun 26, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    It is really shocking that people are this crazy over a player who hasn’t even seen the AHL, Matt Read went from college to the pros only hitting 11 AHL games in between and was the number 1 goal scorer among rookies but that is O, D is a much harder job but I guess since he can only sign an entry level contract people are going crazy for a low risk high reward player with a tiny cap hit…

    • ray2013 - Jun 26, 2012 at 3:58 PM

      I hope the kid is as good as they project and has few problems in his career. But I find it surprising that no one mentions the problems being created with expectations as a top-3 free agent available.

      The Canucks are on that list. College players often hit a wall, especially later in the season. With his guarantees of a spot and playing time, no issues will be raised if he under-performs compared to expectations (which are now considerable)? A young player like Tanev, who’s paid his dues, would have to play behind him to satisfy his request for PT? Good luck to the dream signing him.

    • cerealrapist - Jun 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM

      Matt Read finished college at 25 years old?????

      • handsofsweed - Jun 26, 2012 at 6:40 PM

        Yep. He went on a Mormon Mission assignment to Africa at age 21.

  8. jkaflagg - Jun 27, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    Can’t wait to see this guy play, given all the hoopla…..If he really asked for a guaranteed roster spot he’d better be awfully good, because the locker room will quickly get ugly if the veterans feel he didn’t earn the spot. Always a little suspicious of guys who want guarantees – if you’re so good, why not just go out and earn it yourself ? Gets you a little more respect from your teammates as well…..

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