Justin Schultz, a 2008 2nd round draft choice of the Anaheim Ducks and current free agent, has been making serious headlines lately for a guy who has never played a game in the NHL. Teams are working themselves into a frenzy to get him signed, feeling like he is a free NHL-ready prospect with room to grow further.
What sets Schultz apart from players like Fabian Brunnstrom or Matt Gilroy or Jonas Gustavsson is that Schultz was drafted, was identified early as being a player with a serious ceiling. Other college free agents have room to grow, but are nearly at their ceiling when they are signed. Schultz is still a young player, and it is said that he is an even better prospect than his former d-partner and Toronto
fan boner-inducer prospect Jake Gardiner.
Now, I'd love to see the kid do well (unless he becomes a Leaf) but he has set himself up for large expectations for this coming year. Having delegations from teams fly to Toronto to try to woo him in a Brad Richards fashion is an interesting choice for a player with 0 GP. He has apparently made his short-list that includes the Rangers, Leafs, Canucks, Oilers, Wild and Senators.
Nichols has a great piece on this, which essentially is exactly what I wanted to write today, and you can find it here. I'll summarize my thoughts, which are similar, on each potential destination.
- Rangers: Have one of the best bluelines in the NHL, and it would be very difficult for Schultz to crack the top 6, let alone the top 4. With Girardi, Del Zotto, Staal and others, its not like the guys ahead of him are old and leaving soon.
- Leafs: Gardiner is a former partner, but other than the departure of Luke Schenn (who was a young d-man rushed in development and run out of town....) the blue line in Leaf-land is still pretty crowded. Not to mention, nearly all of the Leafs defencemen are offensive minded: Phaneuf, Liles, Franson, Gardiner, Gunnarsson. Thats quite the fight for PP minutes.
- Canucks: Talented team, home town, and not a chance in hell he cracks their top 4. Not even in his dreams. And those guys are locked up big money long term. Unless he wants to battle it out with Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev for the 6th d-man spot, he will have to pick somewhere else.
- Wild: Let's be honest. The Wild have a nice group of prospects, and they are expected to be players in free agency, but that franchise has been nothing but mediocre for years.
- Oilers: Other than the Sens, I think the Oilers are the best fit. If I was a budding offensive defenseman, I would want to go play a power play with Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and Taylor Hall. Sign me up. However, the Oilers are a ways away from winning, and their goaltending situation is a mess to say the least. Not to mention, not a lot of veterans to learn from out there. Oh, and he'd have to live in Edmonton.
- Which brings me to Ottawa. Yes, I am a Sens blogger and fan, but I honestly think Ottawa is the best fit for Schultz. Paul MacLean has shown that he is willing to let young offensive defencemen do their thing and Erik Karlsson has a Norris Trophy at 22 to show for it. This is a team that made the playoffs last year, but their best days are ahead of them. Defence is where they are thinnest in prospects and they have some veteran d-men on the way out to make room for Schultz. Kuba played PP time last year that will have to be picked up by someone, and Gonchar will be gone soon. In the meantime, there is probably a thing or two Schultz could learn from Gonchar.
- If you are like me and are out of town and couldn't catch the scrimmage online last night, Peter went and posted some of his thoughts and observations this morning. Head over there to check it out! [SSS]
- And for another view, check out this Fan Post by Marv! Remember we encourage you guys and girls to get involved, if you were there yesterday, let us know what you saw! [FanPost]
- Allen Panzeri with the Darren Kramer peanut butter story and a little extra about Ottawa's tough guy prospect. [Panzeri]
- Another story about Mark Stone and how he is really hoping to build on last year to make the big club this coming season. Have to think it will be him or Silfverberg. [SensExtra]
- If you are into the business side of things, Cyril Leeder and his crew unveiled the coming initiatives for this year. [Sun]
- And here's Brennan with some Schultz musing. Interesting that he doesn't seem aware that the Rangers are an option. [Sun]
- The WTYKY guys do a little post-draft roundtable. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will inform you a bit, and it is always worth the read. [WTYKY]