Justin Schultz Expected To Become A UFA: Burke Calling?
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has already acquired two of the prospects that he drafted while serving as the GM of the Anaheim Ducks in defenseman Jake Gardiner and centre Nicolas Deschamps, now it appears as if Burke will make every effort to sign another former Burke draft choice in defensive prospect Justin Schultz.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that Schultz has officially de-registered from the University Of Wisconsin, which should make the highly regarded Schultz an unrestricted free agent in time for the NHL Entry Draft in June, although, unless he is traded, the Ducks would still hold his rights until June 22nd, with Schultz becoming a UFA on July 1st.
Schultz was Jake Gardiner’s defensive partner at the University of Wisconsin where they enjoyed good chemistry both on and off the ice.
While nothing has been confirmed, there are rumors circulating that Gardiner and Schultz would like to play together at the NHL level, which has led to plenty of speculation that Schultz’s ears will be wide open should Burke call with a contract offer.
Of course, Burke will likely have to give up something in return for Schultz, as the Ducks hold his rights up to June 22nd. Making a trade with Anaheim for Schultz’s rights would give Burke exclusive negotiating rights until Schultz officially became a UFA on July 1st.
Originally drafted in the second round (43rd overall) by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Schultz has excelled at the University level, bringing home a number of awards and honors including a selection to the WCHA All-Rookie Team in 2009-10, a First All-Star Team selection, NCAA West First All-American Team selection, and a Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2010-11, followed by another Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2011-12 and a WCHA First All-Star Team selection that season as well.
Listed at 6’1” and 185 pounds, Schultz does not have intimidating size, but he more than makes up for it in his skating ability, speed, agility, poise and a high hockey IQ which has scouts drooling. In fact, many scouts believe Schultz is NHL ready, which will only help his case if he does become a UFA July 1st.
Through three seasons at the WCHA level, Schultz posted 40 goals and 73 assists for a total of 113 points, including a 47 point effort in 2010-11 and a 44 point effort in 2011-12, scoring seven and nine power play goals in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. Schultz also brings a career plus/minus rating of +27 to the table.
When you add it all up, Schultz is one of the best defensive prospects to come along in quite sometime, which should see a number of teams approach the Ducks for his rights.
Despite fleecing the Ducks in the Jake Gardiner deal, it appears as if Burke’s relationship with the Ducks is solid. Burke’s history with the Ducks organization and with Schultz himself should give Burke a leg up in any negotiations with both the Ducks and the player himself.
With the Ducks unable to get a contract done with Schultz since he was drated in 2008, it is hard to believe they will get one done before the July 1st deadline. While it is hard to believe the Ducks would let Schultz go for nothing, should the Ducks trade his rights to another NHL club Schultz would have to give his approval. Therefore, essentially Schultz will land wherever he wants to play, trade or no trade.
Nothing is written in stone, but you have to think Burke will go to the wall to acquire Schultz this summer, giving him yet another blue chip defensive prospect and potentially another key addition to his 2012-13 roster.
Until next time,