NHL

McKenzie: A number of reasons why Schultz chose the Oilers

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Bob McKenzie
6/30/2012 8:51:56 PM
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From the time Justin Schultz opted to make himself an unrestricted free agent and not sign with Anaheim, the team that drafted him, the Edmonton Oilers were always considered a prime potential landing spot.

Schultz is a talented offensive defenceman and, at age 22, is in the same new age wheelhouse as the other bright Oilers offensive stars - Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov - and having a chance to grow old together obviously appealed to Schultz. Boys on the Bus, part two if you will.

And while many made note of ex-Oiler greats Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey lobbying Schultz on behalf of the Oilers, it's believed the presence of new head coach Ralph Krueger and Taylor Hall at the Schultz meeting really helped to cement Edmonton as his choice.

But as a prospect who hasn't played a game in the NHL, Schultz still has a lot to prove, as do the cellar-dwelling Oilers, for that matter, who really need to at least contend for a playoff spot this season.

Many were miffed Schultz didn't just sign with Anaheim and he'll obviously be public enemy No. 1 in Duck Country for rejecting them while exercising his rights within the CBA. But Oiler fans might say turnabout is fair play after Chris Pronger bolted out of Edmonton and Anaheim was the beneficiary of that in 2006.

In any case, the focus will now shift to the big free-agent fish expected to be available on Sunday, the first official day of the 2012-13 season and Free Agency.

Nashville defenceman Ryan Suter will be home in Wisconsin on Sunday while his Minnesota-based agent Neil Sheehy will be fielding offers. Sheehy said Suter will go to market but Nashville still hopes to be in the mix.

New Jersey Devil captain Zach Parise flew into Toronto on Saturday and is expected to be camped out at his agents at Newport Sports in Mississauga. But New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello was scheduled to meet with Parise Saturday night in hopes of perhaps signing him before he goes to market at 12 noon ET Sunday.

New Jersey, what with its ownership and economic issues, may simply not be in a position to close a deal with Parise.

In a year where quality greatly trumps quantity for this free-agent crop, all eyes will be on Suter and Parise.

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