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Schultz agrees to deal with Oilers

by Staff

The Edmonton Oilers have won the Justin Schultz sweepstakes.

Schultz, a top prospect who became an unrestricted free agent when he left school and didn't sign with the Anaheim Ducks, agreed to terms on an entry-level contract Saturday with the Oliers, the team announced.

The 21-year-old defenseman had 16 goals and 44 points for Wisconsin last season, and 40 goals and 113 points in three seasons (121 games) with the Badgers. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top player in college hockey.


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A Kelowna, B.C., native, Schultz spent two seasons in the British Columbia Hockey League, a tier-two Junior A league that allows players to retain NCAA eligibility, before choosing to attend Wisconsin instead of playing for a Junior A team in the Western Hockey League.

"You look at the team they have right now -- all those young guys are turning into superstars," Schultz said. "They got a good, solid young core of prospects. That's definitely intriguing to me."

The Ducks drafted Schultz in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft. Because he did not sign with the franchise after leaving school, he became an unrestricted free agent last week. He cannot officially sign the contract until Sunday.

The courtship of Schultz has drawn some criticism from the hockey community, as players with no NHL experience don't typically gain this ability to control what organization they end up with or this much exposure through the process. Edmonton reportedly had Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey involved with their recruitment of Schultz.

Schultz is the next in a line of elite defense prospects who developed with the Badgers. Ryan McDonagh, Jake Gardiner, Jamie McBain and Brendan Smith have all patrolled the blue line in Madison, Wisc., in recent seasons. The website Hockey's Future ranked Schultz as the No. 25 prospect in the League at the end of the season, and the 12th-best among players with no NHL experience.

He could have an immediate impact next season for the Oilers. Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Martin and Jordan Leopold were all recent 22-year-old rookies who averaged about 20 minutes per game in the NHL after three seasons of NCAA hockey.

The other teams that were reported to among the finalists for Schultz's services were Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Minnesota and the N.Y. Rangers.

"It's confirmation, I think, that good things are happening," Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said. "This is a young player that found himself in a position where he could make whatever choice he wanted.

"It wasn't a financial decision. All teams could offer the same contract. He had a choice to select his team and where he wanted to grow as a National League player, and he chose the Edmonton Oilers. What a way to start the free-agent period."

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