The most sought after NHL free agent who has never actually played in an NHL game has finally made a decision.
Wisconsin All-American defenseman Justin Schultz will be an Edmonton Oiler.
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.
Schultz received unprecedented interest over the course of the past few months. Reportedly 26 teams made calls to the two-time Hobey Baker finalist.
The Wisconsin junior and his agents eventually paired the teams down, and met face to face with them in Toronto. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, the great one Wayne Gretzky even made a sales pitch to the former Badger on behalf of Edmonton.
That's some serious recruiting strategy.
I'm guessing the thought of running a power play that may consist of players like Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle didn't hurt either.
Schultz of course became an unrestricted free agent after just three years at Wisconsin because of a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that states that he is free to become a UFA the fourth June after he has been selected in the NHL draft.
Schultz was selected by Anaheim in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2008 draft. The following season Schultz went back and played a year of junior hockey in the BCHL before coming to Madison. Therefore, June 2012 was the date that Schultz could officially opt for free agency.
Don't be confused, this is not a loophole in the CBA which has been reported by many. This was put into the CBA on purpose, as it gives players in his position the same rights as a collegiate senior who entered school the year they were drafted. Both players are four years out from the time they were selected, and thus deserve the same rights according to the CBA.
Schultz made the decision to do so in late May, much to the chagrin of members of the Ducks organization. In order to start the process Schultz had to officially de-register from the University of Wisconsin. That set an official 30 day window of exclusive negotiating rights for the Ducks to try and make one last push for Schultz.
According to Elliotte Friedman, after realizing that their bid for the Wisconsin All-American defenseman was going nowhere, the Ducks granted the Toronto Maple Leafs a brief window at the draft to try and sign Schultz. Anaheim would have received draft pick compensation from the Leafs had Schultz agreed to sign there at that time.
Obviously Schultz passed on signing during the draft, and the 30 days expired Sunday, June 24th. Schultz has been in Toronto for the better part of the week, the home base of his agency Newport Sports. There he has been listening to his agents give their advice on where he would fit best, and sales pitches from NHL clubs.
Based on various reports from TSN and ESPN, the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators all made face-to-face presentations with the Schultz camp.
Schultz made his decision to sign with Oilers on Saturday.
No details of Schultz's contract have been released at this time, but Schultz will have be required to sign a two-year contract. He will have a maximum base salary of $925,000 per season with an up front $92,500 signing bonus. He can also negotiate performance bonuses that could take his cap hit up to the $3,000,000 range.
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