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Justin Schultz chooses Edmonton Oilers, ending prized rookie’s NHL speed dating

Greg Wyshynski
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For once, the Edmonton Oilers are the pretty girl at the dance. Defenseman Justin Schultz, the 21-year-old former Anaheim Ducks pick and University of Wisconsin star that became the summer's prized rookie free agent, announced on Saturday afternoon that he was giving his final rose, er, taking his talents to, er, signing with the Oilers.

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The whole controversial saga involving Schultz took on competitive reality show qualities: The courtship, the team-by-team presentations; and then on Saturday, the elimination process.

The first name that came off the list were the New York Rangers. Then the Toronto Maple Leafs, who offered the chance for Schultz to play on the same roster as his Wisconsin teammates Jake Gardiner. Then the Vancouver Canucks, offering a chance for the B.C. native to come home, were out. Then the Minnesota Wild saw their bid fall short.

In the end, the Edmonton Oilers won his hand, enlisted Taylor Hall, Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey in the recruitment process. (No word if Paulina Gretzky got in on the lobbying as well. But, judging from the decision…)

Schultz was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks at No. 43 overall in 2008, and they held his rights until June 24, 2012. He left the University of Wisconsin, and under the CBA became an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The details for Schultz, via Mark Spector: "Schultz will sign 2-year deal for $925,000 per, with a signing bonus of $92,500. Bonuses $2.85 million, for an overall cap hit of $3.775 million." It was the best financial deal he could cut under the CBA.

His decision was expected to come down to immediate playing time, and it's not hard to understand how the Oilers may have made the most convincing case: They have Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Landislav Smid and Andy Sutton under contract; beyond them, its Colton Teubert and Corey Potter, with Cam Barker, Theo Peckham and Jeff Petry as restricted free agents. Justin Schultz could, in theory, step right in.

The Oilers are a team nearing success, with a galaxy of young stars. Add another one to the list in Justin Schultz. This is a big win for Edmonton, even for a player that hasn't hit the ice in the NHL yet.

As for Schultz, this process has put a target on him. If not for other players, than for media and fans. He followed the CBA, when through the process; but the process is tailor-made to make a kid like this come off like a diva. It's the rookie version of Chris Drury Disease -- just like his contract with the Rangers obscured every good thing little thing he did on the ice, the Justin Schultz Derby won't earn this rookie defenseman an inch of slack -- nor will his cap hit.

It's a hell of a challenge to a young player to produce immediately.

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