The saga is over.
Highly sought-after free agent Justin Schultz has, at last, signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
Per the Oilers' team release:
The Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with Justin Schultz. More details to come.— Edmonton Oilers (@NHL_Oilers) June 30, 2012
Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca offers the financial dimensions of the contract. As expected, Schultz's deal is the maximum allowed for an entry-level contract:
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.— Mark Spector Sports (@SportsnetSpec) June 30, 2012
Schultz's decision comes after hours of waiting as the 21-year-old defenseman ruled out one team after another from the sweepstakes.
Those eliminations, though, often came quite far apart.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal explains just how slow the process was:
This Schultz wait is taking longer than the last two minutes of an NBA playoff game— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) June 30, 2012
In the meantime, conversely, the hashtag #Schultzwatch managed to work its way to the top of the Twitter trends leaderboard:
Once Schultz's decision arrived, however, the reaction was instantaneous.
TSN's Craig Button raved about the youngster:
Justin Schultz is the real deal IMO. A great 'coup' by the Oilers.— Craig Button (@CraigJButton) June 30, 2012
Spector also offered up his praise:
Some special stuff happening in Edmonton. Schultz not a savior, but another good, young piece in a rebuild.— Mark Spector Sports (@SportsnetSpec) June 30, 2012
Schultz in the same age bracket as Eberle, Hall, RNH, and Gagner. Now the OIlers might have their best young D-man, too. Good for all.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 30, 2012
...but then Rosen brought the hysteria back down to Earth:
OK, Mr. Schultz, put your name on a contract and get to training. Expectations may never be higher for you than they are right now.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) June 30, 2012
Nevertheless, Schultz will indeed enter Edmonton with both sky-high projections and a boatload of talent. His last season with the University of Wisconsin was fantastic, as the Oilers' team account notes:
Schultz spent 2011-12 at the University of Wisconsin (44 pts, 37 gms); drafted by the #NHLDucks in the 2nd round (43rd overall) in 2008— Edmonton Oilers (@NHL_Oilers) June 30, 2012
With that excellent college career now behind him, Schultz will step directly into Edmonton's turbulent defensive cast, currently highlighted by rearguards Ryan Whitney and Ladislav Smid, this fall.
However, Schultz may enter opening day on the team's second pairing with another recent Edmonton addition—former Wild defenseman Nick Schultz.
Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo agrees:
Hopefully next season N. Schultz and J. Schultz will be a defense pair in Edmonton. N. Schultz would be a good mentor for the new Oiler— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) June 30, 2012
No matter his placement on the depth chart, though, Schultz's signing with the Oilers gives Edmonton more hope for next year than they've had in a while.
Could GM Steve Tambellini be thinking playoffs? Perhaps, but the odds are still slim.
@ChaoticAppeal puts it bluntly:
The Oilers have no reason not to make the playoffs this upcoming season. But knowing them, they probably wont.— Sunshine. (@ChaoticAppeal) June 30, 2012
And, of course, the Oilers have one more statistic working against that dream: They've finished either last or second to last in the NHL for three straight seasons.
TSN's Bruce Arthur, even after today's signing, doesn't cut them any slack:
The Edmonton Oilers: winning everything except for actual games since 2010.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) June 30, 2012
Was Justin Schultz's signing in Edmonton a smart move? Will the young defenseman lead the Oilers to the playoffs next season?
Sound off with your reaction in the comments section below.