When Wisconsin was officially eliminated from tournament contention on Sunday night, the focus immediately shifted to the future of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz.
The junior blue-liner has been the topic of much discussion recently as he ponders his hockey future. Schultz was a 2008 second round draft pick of Anaheim, and the Ducks are expected to make a play for the West Kelowna, B.C. native immediately.
With the Ducks in Denver to play the Avalanche tonight, some members of the Ducks staff including head coach Bruce Boudreau made the trek over to Magness Arena to see their prized prospect in live action last night.
With Wisconsin's loss, many speculated that Schultz may sign with Anaheim and join them in time for tonight's game against Colorado. That was put to rest quickly, as Schultz got on the plane with his teammates after the game and headed back to Madison.
Asked about his pro status after the game, Schultz clearly wasn't ready talk about it.
"I'm not going to get into that right now. I honestly haven't thought about it," Schultz told the local media.
Schultz's future was the talk of twitter on Monday afternoon, especially when world renowned hockey analyst Bob McKenzie from TSN weighed in on the subject.
McKenzie laid out Schultz's options as well as anyone could in five tweets.
Top ANA prospect Justin Schultz, talented U of Wisco dman whose season ended yesterday, said to be considering all his options, including:— Bob McKenzie (@tsnbobmckenzie) March 12th, 2012
1. Returning to Wisco for his senior season (unlikely IMO). 2. Signing 2 yr entry level deal with ANA and burns 1st yr by playing now...— Bob McKenzie (@tsnbobmckenzie) March 12th, 2012
3. Leave school at end of semester, become UFA July 1, sign with NHL team of choice. Hearing no decision is imminent, will take his time.— Bob McKenzie (@tsnbobmckenzie) March 12th, 2012
Longer Schultz goes w/o making firm decision would appear to be bad news for ANA. Ducks want this kid in the lineup now. Talented 2nd rder.— Bob McKenzie (@tsnbobmckenzie) March 12th, 2012
If Schultz goes to UFA, it would be a major blow to ANA. If he doesn't sign soon, logical implication is he's going to UFA.— Bob McKenzie (@tsnbobmckenzie) March 12th, 2012
I expanded on Schultz's situation that Bob is alluding to in his tweets in an article that I wrote in early February. The following is an excerpt from my previous article:
Option 1 (Return to Wisconsin)
Pretty self explanatory.
Option 2 (Sign with Anaheim Immediately)
Schultz signs a two-year entry level contract (ELC) with Anaheim shortly the Badgers season is over. This option means that Schultz can become a restricted free agent earlier. Signing during this NHL season would burn a year off his ELC. He could be come a restricted free agent in the summer of 2013.
Schultz would immediately receive a $87,500 signing bonus for this season.
As for salary, the NHL goes by days under contract. Schultz could spend 26 days in the NHL to end the season, and would make approximately $5,000 per day. That means he'd end up banking around $130,000 in salary. Add that to his $87,500 signing bonus and he'd end this hockey season with a cool $217,500.
Next season Schultz would receive the second year of his signing bonus (up front $87,500) and an NHL salary of $875,000.
Option 3 (Choose your destination this summer)
Since Schultz played a year of junior hockey after being drafted, he can become a free agent over the summer if he chooses. The NHL CBA has a loophole that says if you officially withdraw from school (simply has to tell UW he's leaving) and it's the fourth summer after you've been drafted, you can choose to become a free agent.
Not many players do this, but Jason Gregoire from North Dakota chose this route last year. Other players like Bill Sweatt from Colorado College have done the same.
In this scenario, Schultz could earn $925,000 in salary each season with a $92,500 up front signing bonus both years.
The obvious advantage to this would be that Justin could pick and choose where he wants to play. Being a top 10 prospect in the world, Schultz could essentially choose any team in the NHL to play for next season. Would he want to be closer to his home and play for the Vancouver Canucks? Would he want to go play with a former teammate, or choose a better situation?
Option 2 (Sign with Anaheim immediately after the Wisconsin season)
*2011-12: $130,000 + $87,500 signing bonus
*2012-13: $875,000 + up front $87,500 signing bonus
*Restricted Free Agent: Summer of 2013
Option 3 (Choose your destination this summer)
*2012-13: $925,00 + up front $92,500 signing bonus
*2013-14: $925,00 + up front $92,500 signing bonus
*Restricted Free Agent: Summer of 2014
Regardless of what happens, it's clear that the people around the Wisconsin program are going to miss #6.
"If he does go, he's really a fun young man to work with and watch play," Eaves said. "I think his teammates have learned a lot from him, both from his work ethic and the things that he does. He was really fun to be around."
A few of Schultz's teammates weighed in on twitter as well over the past twenty-four hours.
It was an unbelievable season for us this year. A SO to my roomie— Frankie Simonelli (@FSimonelli27) March 11th, 2012
@Zengerle9 for hitting the 50 point marker this year. And my D partner
— Frankie Simonelli (@FSimonelli27) March 11th, 2012
It's been an honor to have had the opportunity to play with— Michael Mersch (@M_Mersch) March 12th, 2012
@6Schultz6. Learned a lot from him, looking forward to watching him in thefuture
As Bob McKenzie said, it's likely that we're either going to know something soon, or we're not going to know anything for a while. Schultz is currently weighing his options, and if he chooses to accept the Ducks offer, we should know in a matter of days.
If Schultz decides that he's going to choose to become a free agent over the summer, it could be a while before we know anything official.
Stay tuned my friends.
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