Oilers win Schultz free agent jackpot

Former Westside Warrior Justin Schultz opts to sign with Edmonton, encouraged by former Oiler greats Gretzky and Coffey.

Former Westside Warrior defenceman Justin Schultz has joined the young powerhouse of high draft picks with the Edmonton Oilers on the weekend.

After beng actively courted by a handful of NHL teams, including the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, Schultz opted to sign a two year deal wih the Oilers.

Schultz said receiving personal phone calls from Oiler hall-of-famers Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey were factors in his decision, as was the opportunity to gain a top four spot on the Edmonton defence corps and play the point on the powerplay, and the overall impression made on him by new Oiler coach Ralph Krueger.

Schultz was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round after his final season in the BCHL with the Westside Warriors, and he opted to attend the University of Wisconsin. After three years with the Badgers, Schultz became a rookie free agent because the Ducks were unable to reach a contract agreement with him within the three year post-entry draft signing window.

As Schultz evolved over those three years in Wisconsin into one of the best NCCA Div. 1 hockey blueliners, interest in him continued to escalate. For Schultz, the NHL labour contract stipulated that his could sign for no more than $925,000 in salary with any team on a two-year deal, meaning his decision would be based not on money but rather where he would be the best fit on a team given the high expectations that are now too come in his rookie season.

Schultz was considered the best NHL-ready defenceman among the rookies up for the entry draft this year, aided by the fact he is now 22 years of age. He joins a team of young stars that includes Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner along with the last three number one overall draft picks, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov.

“The core of young talented players they have there is very impressive,” Schultz said on Saturday after announcing his deal with with Edmonton. “To be able to have the opportunity to grow up and play with those will be pretty cool.”

Last season, Schutlz was the U.S. collegiate hockey’s top-scoring defenceman with 16 goals and 44 points in 37 games. Playing with Wisconsin, he was on the ice for 69 of his team’s 105 goals.


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