Justin Schultz has made his big decision and, unfortunately, he will not be playing for the Vancouver Canucks. Schultz, formerly of the University of Wisconsin Badgers, has agreed in principle to a deal with the Edmonton Oilers to be signed tomorrow. In what turned out to be a most interesting day, the young defender reportedly spurned offers from the Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs. Ultimately, the Oilers’ pitch was just too strong.
After using a loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to enter unrestricted free agency, Schultz was courted by upwards of 26 NHL teams. The fact that the Canucks were a finalist for his services speaks volumes about Mike Gillis’ ability to court young, college free agents with loads of potential. At the end of the day, Schultz just felt that the opportunity for him in Edmonton is greater than the one present in Vancouver.
Since being drafted 43rdoverall by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008, Schultz has garnered league wide attention. His standout college years made him most attractive to many NHL teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs who tried to acquire him via trade just a few seasons ago. With 44 points in 37 games to close out his college career, it is no surprise that so many NHL general managers were interested in his services.
The Vancouver Canucks were rumored to be in the Schultz sweeps for months. Vancouver provides a chance to play alongside great professionals, live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and develop without having the pressure of being ‘the guy’ at the age of 21.
Unfortunately, Schultz saw the playing opportunity in Edmonton to be much greater for him. Playing alongside Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov will certainly be exciting for Schultz but the pressure on him will be immense. With a cap hit of $3.775million, Schultz is now the Oilers undisputed number one defender. Time will tell whether or not that is healthy him during key developmental years.
With Schultz rejecting the Canucks, Mike Gillis has his work cut out for him. The Canucks’ defense is no longer the backbone of this organization; in fact, one could argue that it is ridiculously weak right now. With Sami Salo rumored to be upset with negotiations and Jason Garrison reportedly asking for top dollar, Gillis is going to have a busy and stressful couple of days to open free agency. It’s no secret that the Canucks need defensive help, but at what cost?
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