Justin Schultz talks with CBC’s David Amber after the Stanley Cup final.

Pair of Warriors alumni happy after free agent frenzy

Former West Kelowna Warriors Justin Schultz and Grayson Downing sign new pro contracts

Canada celebrated its 150th birthday on July 1 and a pair of former West Kelowna did as well with new free agent contracts.

Former Warriors Justin Schultz and Grayson Downing have new contacts after Saturday’s opening of NHL free agency.

Coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, Schltz and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a new contract for the former Warriors defenseman on Saturday afternoon. Schultz re-upped with the club on a new three-year, $16.5 million contact that will see the West Kelowna, B.C. native locked up with the Pens through the 2019/20 season.

“Justin plays a very important role with our team,” said Penguins executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford, “It’s very good to know that he will be returning to us for three more years.”

Schultz, 26, spent 99 career regular season games with the Warriors, scoring 25 goals and tallying 91 points during his Junior ‘A’ career while adding 4 goals and 11 points in 17 career playoff games. In his only two seasons with the Warriors, Schultz was named the Interior Division’s top defenceman at 16 and 17 years of age.

In 344 career NHL games, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound rearguard has scored 41 goals and 160 points, including playing a key role in each of the Penguins Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017. Schultz opened the scoring in Game #5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators, proving to be the game-winning goal in a 5-0 victory for the Pens. Just three nights later, Schultz assisted on the Cup-clinching goal from Patric Hornqvist in Game #6 for the Penguins second-consecutive Stanley Cup.

One of Schultz’s teammates from the 2008/09 season also signed a new contact on Saturday afternoon as Grayson Downing found a new home with the Edmonton Oilers organization on a one-year contact.

Downing, 25, spent 2008-2011 in West Kelowna with the Warriors, amassing 65 goals and 129 points to go along with 79 penalty minutes in 131 career regular season games, including a stint with Team Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in 2010. Downing added 8 goals and 19 points in 26 career playoff games at the Junior ‘A’ level, which led to a productive four-year collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire with 56 goals and 112 points and 120 penalty minutes in 144 career NCAA hockey games with the Wildcats.

The Abbotsford, B.C. product has played the last three seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) after signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild in 2015. Downing has tallied 28 goals and 70 points along with 43 penalty minutes in 120 career AHL games split between the Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s farm team, and finishing last season with the Tucson Roadrunners, the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.

All signs point to the 6-foot, 182-pound forward starting the 2017/18 season with the Bakersfield Condors, the AHL affiliate of the Oilers to continue his pro career.