Who? Wasn’t he drafted by Anaheim? How can he be a free agent?
Those might be a few questions you have if you missed the news yesterday, reported by Bob McKenzie, that Justin Schultz, the University of Wisconsin defenseman, has filed the paperwork to withdraw from the school. You might have heard Schultz’s name come up towards the end of the regular season as the Ducks (the team that drafted him back in 2008) intended to sign him and burn a year off his entry-level contract after Wisconsin’s season came to an end (similar to what happened with Reilly Smith here in Dallas). Of course, Schultz refused to sign a deal, and now that he’s withdrawn from school, a 30-day exclusive negotiation window begins between the Ducks and Schultz. The consensus of the hockey media is that it’s a given that Schultz will not sign with the Ducks considering he could have done it earlier in the season, burning off a third of his entry-level contract in the process. After that 30-day window closes, Schultz has a luxury few young prospect have, the ability to select which team he wants to go to as an unrestricted free agent. With this revelation, Schultz has moved himself into position as the most sought after UFA defenseman after Ryan Suter.
So, should the Dallas Stars pursue Justin Schultz?
Schultz’s situation is not as simple as another guy looking for a job. Schultz scored 44 points in 37 games with the Badgers, and his 16 goals led the team. As a defenseman on an underachieving Wisconsin squad that is a spectacular achievement. But it also shows clearly that Schultz is a puck moving, offensive defenseman, not a defensive stud. He’ll be a prized addition to whichever team signs him, but do the Stars need to pursue another small puck mover when the roster already features guys like Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley and a gaping hole with big defensive defenseman? Obviously he’d be welcome on just about any roster in the NHL, but when you take a step back and look at the big picture, Schultz’s refusal to sign with Anaheim signifies that the kid probably has another team in mind, odds are the British Columbia native isn’t looking down at Texas as his #1 choice.
This puts the Stars at a significant disadvantage because Dallas can’t throw money at him to pry him away. Schultz is 21 years old, according to the CBA any player between the ages of 18-21 is required to sign a three-year entry level contract with a max base salary of $925,000. It’s clear Schultz didn’t duck out (no pun intended) on the Ducks because of money, he did it because he wants to be able to choose where he plays.
Unfortunately for the Dallas Stars, Texas is not likely to be that place.
You can follow me here: @AndrewMonrreal