It doesn't happen very often, but every now and again, a prime free agent hits the market out of college, even though they were drafted. Such was the case with Blake Wheeler, and the Boston Bruins came out with a prime prospect that just weeks before had belonged to the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes got? Well, not much. This wasn't a trade, but a little used loophole in the CBA that allows for this situation.
Some lawyer for the NHLPA earned his (or her) stripes that day, my friends.
It will likely be a point of contention in the new CBA discussions, and will hopefully be closed up. Players shouldn't get to choose to leave the team that drafted them for greener pastures. Seems wrong. The draft is supposed to make bad teams better, and this loophole makes that more difficult.
Still, it is what it is, and there looks to be a prime defensive prospect about to hit the market on July 1st. The Ducks drafted one Mr. Justin Schultz, but he is pushing to become a free agent and sign where he pleases. Do the Wild have a chance? For that info, we asked Chuck Schwartz, of SBN's own Bucky's 5th Quarter.
It's a bit early to be looking at free agency, but this information was too good to let sit around. So, his thoughts... after the jump.
From Chuck Schwartz:
Justin Schultz is one of the premier defensemen available this summer, and has been a name buzzing around hockey circles since the conclusion of his junior season at Wisconsin. If Schultz chooses to become a free agent this summer, and it certainly appears that he will, TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie is on the record as saying that he will be behind only Nashville's Ryan Suter on the pecking order for available free agent defensemen.
There are a number of things that make Justin an elite NHL prospect. First and foremost is his poise. From the moment he stepped on campus in Madison Schultz showed that he has tremendous confidence with the puck on his stick. That was evidenced by him running the point on the power play from the first day of practice as a freshman on a team that played for a national championship. On the power play Schultz has an incredible ability to get the puck to the net through screens.
Schultz is also an elite skater and would have no problem stepping int an NHL lineup immediately. One of the thing that stands out on tape is his ability to join the rush and create an odd man rush in his teams favor. His instincts and great first step are unparalleled at the college level.
Defensively he's taken considerable strides over the past three seasons at Wisconsin and that's a credit to Mike Eaves and defensive coaches Mark Osiecki and Bill Butters. With Schultz's elite skating ability he's afforded the luxury of taking chances in the offensive zone because he can recover so quickly. In his own end he's gotten much more physical and continues to develop in the areas of using his stick to take away passing lanes as well as blocking shots.
At 6'2, 185 Schultz is still a little bit on the light side, and getting physically stronger to handle the rigors of the NHL is one of the things that he's aware that he has to work on. He'll never be confused for a shut down defenseman at the NHL level, but his incredible hockey knowledge masks any deficiencies he may have in the strength category.
From a Minnesota Wild perspective, he's the piece that Chuck Fletcher has been missing on his back end. It was painfully obvious in watching the Wild play this season that they are lacking high end puck moving defensemen that can skate. Schultz brings that to the table, and also would have the ability to step in from day one and run an NHL power play. Pair him up with someone who will focus a little more on the defensive side of the game, and you've got yourself a solid pairing that can play 25 minutes a night from the get-go next season.
In my opinion the Wild are an excellent fit for Schultz, and I have no doubt in my mind that they will make a strong push to sign him. Problem is 29 other teams are going to do the same.
Thank you to Chuck for the insight. Please make sure to give him his due, and visit the only site on SBN covering Badger hockey.