Wisconsin's Justin Schultz has certainly been the buzz of the hockey world over the past 36 hours, as media and fans from across North America speculate about his future.
Schultz, a 6'2, 185 pound defenseman from West Kelowna, B.C. recently finished off his junior season at Wisconsin, recording 16 goals and 28 assists for 44 points in 37 games. It's the second consecutive season that Schultz has been the top scoring blue-liner in NCAA hockey.
The Anaheim Ducks, who drafted Schultz in the second round of the 2008 draft are pushing hard to sign the smooth-skating right handed defenseman. Anaheim can offer Schultz a spot on the roster immediately, which would in turn burn a year off his entry level contract.
However, there is a provision in the current CBA that allows Schultz to become a free agent this summer, which would give him the right to sign with any NHL franchise he wants.
I spoke with a source close to Schultz on Tuesday afternoon who indicated to me that Justin is currently weighing his options, and that no decision was imminent.
It was assumed by most that Schultz would sign with the Ducks immediately at the outset of the Wisconsin season, and jump straight to the NHL.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources close to Schultz told me that we shouldn't expect that to happen any time soon.
I was told that Justin is fully aware of the options available to him as a member of the 2008 draft class, and that he is currently in the process of figuring out which route will be best for his hockey future.
I was also told that Schultz plans to finish the spring semester at Wisconsin. Sources also indicated that while it's unlikely that Schultz would return for his senior season, that certainly hasn't been eliminated as an option.
If Schultz DID sign with Anaheim now, he is a player who would receive the max offer for his draft class (2008). That would be a two-year deal with a pro-rated $875,000 (Aprox. $130,000 & shrinking by the day), with a max signing bonus ($87,500) this season. He would receive an $875,500 salary, with a 10% up front signing bonus of $87,500 next season.
The biggest bonus for Schultz signing with the Ducks before the NHL season is over, is that it would bring him to restricted free agency in the summer of 2013. Obviously coming to restricted free agency sooner, ultimately brings you closer to UFA sooner, with the hope of the big pay day ahead.
What are Schultz's options if he chooses not to sign with the Ducks? I'm glad you asked.
Basically Justin would be free to sign with any team after July 1. The max contract that he can receive this summer is a two year deal for $925,000 per season with a standard 10% ($92,500) up front signing bonus each year.
If Schultz chooses the route to pick his destination this summer, he would become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.
Other performance bonuses can be added to the contract in both cases. For the sake of simplicity, let's stick with the numbers we have.
Option 1 (Sign with Anaheim immediately after the Wisconsin season)
*2011-12: Aprox. $130,000 + $87,500 signing bonus
*2012-13: $875,000, with 10% up front signing bonus
*Restricted Free Agent: Summer of 2013
Option 2 (Choose your destination this summer)
*2012-13: $925,000, with 10% up front signing bonus
*2013-14: $925,000, with 10% up front signing bonus
*Restricted Free Agent: Summer of 2014
At this point it seems clear that Schultz is likely to choose free agency over the summer. If Schultz was going to accept the Ducks offer, he likely would have done it by now.
The person I spoke with in Schultz's camp wouldn't flat out admit that Schultz will pass on the Ducks offer to become a free agent this summer, but they made it clear that he is in no hurry to sign a contract.
With the way the CBA is currently written up, terms are fairly easy to navigate. There isn't much of a negotiation in terms of dollars and cents for a max player like Schultz.
That said, I was told that things can obviously change at any time.
Stay tuned, as we'll have any breaking news regarding Schultz's status here at Bucky's 5th Quarter.
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