Back in April, Chuck Schwartz of our Wisconsin Badgers site, Bucky's Fifth Quarter, told us all about Justin Schultz, he made it clear that Schultz is an elite prospect. An elite prospect that used a loophole in the CBA to become a free agent before he ever played a professional game. An elite prospect that will forever have that tag looming over him.
Every team in the NHL wants this kid, despite the fact that he has shown nothing on a professional level. Once a prospect gets the tag "elite," however, GMs start to drool, fans start to swoon, and egos get big. That elite prospect becomes a circus act. Schultz is now an elite prospect three ring circus.
And as of last night, an elite prospect no one likes anymore.
It wasn't easy to find a hockey fan or member of the media, outside of Anaheim, that would begrudge Schultz his desire to go to free agency. After all, the CBA allows it, and if he feels he can get more money and find a better fit for himself, so be it. The loophole is stupid, it is beyond ridiculous, and it is exactly why people hate lawyers, but it is a reality. The NHL and NHLPA both agreed to the clause, and they are now both reaping the rewards.
What people, including myself, don't understand, is the pure piss poor attitude coming from the Schultz camp. First you shaft Anaheim. Great. Enjoy that for the rest of your career. Then it is reported that you "prefer Canada." Also fine, but remember that US teams outnumber Canadian teams more than 3-to-1. Why you would want that on your resume is questionable.
However, when it gets reported that you can't even be bothered to grant a meeting to an NHL GM... you've lost the last bit of respect the hockey world has for you. As reported by Aaron Portzline, Columbus Blue Jackets beat writer (via Twitter):
#CBJ officially out of contention for D Justin Schultz. Not a shocker. Expressed interest w agent, but not granted face-to-face meeting.
Someone needs to get through this kid's agent and let him know that casting a perceived disdain for 2/3 of the league, plus outright disrespecting GMs is not the way to build a presence in the league. At this point, Schultz is going to be hated in 29 cities in the NHL. One team will love him, and he better hope that they love him enough to keep him around forever, because no one else is going to want him.
Unless, of course, he turns into the next Niklas Lidstrom, but that has much better odds of not happening than happening. You see teams clamoring to sign Blake Wheeler? Maybe Schultz is a better prospect than Wheeler. Maybe he's not. The odds say he's not, so why not hedge your bet and entertain the offers from everyone who is interested? Why burn the bridges?
Justin Schultz has gone from an elite prospect that everyone wants on their team, to an elite prospects that fans see has a prima donna. Hopefully GMs and those in power across the NHL have the capacity to look past being told that they aren't even good enough to have a conversation with.
I wouldn't be. Enjoy your moment, kid. It's likely the last one you'll get.
Please note that as of this writing the Minnesota Wild had not been informed by His Highness that they were out of the running. Even if he winds up with the Wild (he won't), the opinions expressed would not change. The kid had as much as anyone to prove before he left college, and with the act he and his agent have put on, he only added to his list of things to prove.