Justin Schultz to decide his destination tomorrow

Justin Schultz to decide his destination tomorrow

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Roll the cameras. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, we’ll find out tomorrow where Justin Schultz is “taking his talents” as the former University of Wisconsin defenceman will decide which of the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators or New York Rangers is the winner of the highly publicized sweepstakes.

While the Oilers had alumni Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey dialing up Schultz to sell Schultz on Edmonton, former University of Wisconsin teammate Jake Gardiner gave his good friend a call:

Gardiner has called Schultz, urging him to join the Leafs, one of five teams Schultz identified on a short list. The Rangers, Senators, Canucks and Oilers were the others.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit, but he really didn’t give me anything,” said Gardiner, who said he’d love to be teammates with “Schultzy” again. “As his friend, I definitely want him to come here. The whole city does.

“It’d be awesome. Hopefully it works out. There’s a lot of teams after him.”

It’s the time of year tea leaves need to be read. The fact that Schultz didn’t tell his friend much either means he’s playing his cards close to his chest and hasn’t made up his mind, or he has made up his mind that it won’t be the Leafs and didn’t want to disappoint his friend.

The player Schultz is most often compared to is none other than Gardiner — fast-skating, tall, puck-moving defenceman.

Some might call it good business by Newport Sports and their client, I call this whole damn thing a lack of humility from a young player who hasn’t touched NHL ice yet. Strange CBA rule or not, Schultz seems unwilling to pay his dues and, before playing a single pro game, wants the rights everyone else waits until their second contract to earn. Even without debating whether or not he was obligated to sign with Anaheim, the whole “tell me why I should play for you” act from a 22-year-old with zero professional games to his name doesn’t sit well with me, and I would bet deep down it doesn’t sit well with Burke either.

What Burke realizes as well as I is that this is a real “free” asset and he would be remiss not to offer the same maxed out, two-year entry level contract the rest of the teams on Schultz’s list will offer. A number of these “free wallet” signings out of college have not worked out, but this is a unique situation as Schultz is a drafted player with second round pedigree who held out after taking significant leaps forward in his development following his draft year. He has bluechip two-way potential and there isn’t a team in the league who isn’t interested in that.

It’s unlikely tomorrow’s decision will come down to who called Schultz the night before, and will have much more to do with where Schultz believes he’ll receive the most opportunity. Count us as winners either way once this whole dog and pony show comes to a close.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
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