The Edmonton Oilers pulled out all the stops in an attempt to lure Justin Schultz, a high-profile free agent coming out of the University of Wisconsin, and in the end were the victors in the Justin Schultz lottery as the young defenseman decided to sign with Edmonton over a host of other NHL clubs.
The Oilers had just passed up the opportunity to utilize their second-straight first-overall draft pick in the NHL Entry Draft to draft a promising defender in Ryan Murray, instead opting for Russian dynamo Nail Yakupov.
The team was criticized for not drafting to fill a position of need, but with the addition of Schultz, the Oilers ended up acquiring a talented, puck-moving defenseman, whom many projected to be a special player in the NHL thanks to his stellar numbers in the NCAA.
Thanks to the current NHL lockout, the Oilers have yet to see how Schultz will help benefit the production on the ice, but based on his small sample of work in the AHL thus far, it appears that Schultz is more than capable of stepping into a solid role for the Oilers.
With Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz and the emerging Jeff Petry already on the Oilers blue line, Justin Schultz likely won't be on the Oilers top pairing, but should see significant time on the Oilers power play.
Schultz is a gifted offensive defenseman, something the Oilers really haven't had since Chris Pronger left the team.
But is he the final piece in the puzzle for the Oilers?
While Schultz does in fact fill a need for the team and bolster an already decent back end, his addition won't even guarantee the Oilers a playoff spot.
There are many questions as to whether or not Devan Dubnyk can emerge as a legitimate option in net for Edmonton, and until the team solves their goaltending situation, Schultz can only help so much.
The Oilers could also benefit from a true shutdown defender as well to partner with the offensively gifted Schultz and the offensive-minded Petry.
Edmonton will be better with the addition of Schultz (and the addition of Yakupov), but in the tough NHL Northwest division and Western Conference, the Oilers will still have a tough time even making the playoffs.
If Schultz stays beyond his initial two-year deal with the team, the Oilers will continue to grow and should be competing for the Stanley Cup soon.
But not next season.
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