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|Oilers' future looking even brighter with Schultz|
|Written by Mike Cook|
|Thursday, 05 July 2012 10:24|
The Oilers have been at the bottom of the league for the last three seasons. In the last week, they have drafted Nail Yakupov and signed Justin Schultz, giving their fans some hope for the future.What a week it was for fans of the Edmonton Oilers.
First, the team selected forward Nail Yakupov with the first pick in the NHL Draft. Then, Edmonton landed highly touted defenseman Justin Schultz the day before free agency began.
"This is a massive day for the Oilers just from the fact that its confirmation that people, players are excited about what they see is happening here," said General Manager Steve Tambellini, whose team finished 29th in the league last season and 30th the previous two seasons.
Even though he has yet to play in the NHL, Schultz was considered one of the top free agents available.
Anaheim drafted Schultz in 2008; however, the current collective bargaining agreement allows a college player to become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t sign an entry-level contract.
He’s played the past three seasons for the University of Wisconsin, tallying 40 goals and 73 assists for 113 points in 121 career games. The Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Schultz was a two-time finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.
He also played two seasons with Westside in the BCHL, scoring 25 goals and adding 66 assists in 108 games.
“Edmonton was always in the back of my mind a place I wanted to play with the young talent they have here, and I always saw myself fitting in pretty good,” Schultz said. “I’m really excited.”
Schultz has no ill will toward the Ducks organization, rather he liked the option of choosing where he wanted to play, which was in hockey-crazy Canada.
The Oilers put forth an all-out blitz on the native of West Kelowna, B.C. including phone calls from Edmonton greats Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky. Schultz also met with Edmonton winger Taylor Hall and coach Ralph Krueger.
“(My decision) started with the young talented players they have already and the players they’re bringing up,” Schultz said. “I saw myself having a long career with those guys and having lots of success. Then meeting Ralph in Toronto was a huge thing for me. He communicated to me what his style was and I really felt that I could thrive under that system.”
Tambellini wasn’t ready to commit to playing time or roles for Schultz, an excellent puck-mover, other than to say he would be “a big piece of this hockey club.”
Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry and Nick Schultz are probably locked in as top-four defensemen, leaving Justin Schultz and injury-prone Ryan Whitney likely to compete for the final top-two defensive pairing position. It’s likely that Schultz will get some time on the power play.
He joins a team whose nucleus includes Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
"The core of young talented players they have there is very impressive," Schultz said. "To be able to have the opportunity to grow up and play with those will be pretty cool."
NOTESCalgary signed C Jiri Hudler to a four-year, $16 million deal. … The Flames also shored up their blue line by acquiring D Dennis Wideman last week and signing him to a five-year, $26.25 million deal. … The Avalanche have been busy since July 1. They signed winger P.A. Parenteau, who scored 18 goals and had 49 assists in 80 games last season for the New York Islanders, to a four-year, $16 million deal. “He’s a dynamic player with some skill, and he certainly complements our young centermen. I think that was something that was appealing to him. He’s a guy we think will definitely help our power play, said GM Greg Sherman. … Colorado also resigned D Erik Johnson to a four-year, $15 million deal, and added depth to its roster with two-year deals for C John Mitchell and D Greg Zanon. … LW Ryan Smyth resigned with Edmonton for two years at $2.25 million a season. He made $4.5 million in 2011-12. Smyth told The Edmonton Journal: “I wouldn’t have taken the deal if I wasn’t OK with it, but I feel there’s tremendous upside in the team, particularly with the acquisition of (defenceman Justin Schultz and first-round pick Nail Yakupov).” … Edmonton re-signed enforcer Darcy Hordichuk to a one-year $850,000 deal. … In addition Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota signed winger Torrey Mitchell and enforcer Zenon Konopka to add depth on its third and fourth lines. General Manager Chuck Fletcher hopes the two can add some stability to positions that were often filled by AHL call-ups last season. Mitchell should also provide a boost to Wild’s second power-play unit. … Vancouver, which lost D Sami Salo to Tampa Bay, signed strong two-way D Jason Garrison to a six-year deal for $27.6 million. He’s excited to play for his hometown team.
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