Ducks' prospect Schultz leaves school, likely to be UFA

Bob McKenzie

5/25/2012 7:44:08 PM

Justin Schultz, the Anaheim Ducks second-round pick and blue-chip defenceman prospect, has officially "de-registered" from the University of Wisconsin.

That triggers a process that will likely make him an unrestricted free agent, perhaps as early as the NHL Draft on June 22.

According to league rules, from the time Anaheim was given notice of the de-registration from school -- believed to be Tuesday of this week -- the Ducks have a 30-day exclusive window where they still own his rights and can either try to sign him or trade him.

Because Schultz has chosen to initiate this process to free agency, there's no logical reason to believe there's any chance of Anaheim signing him now when they could not get it done through most of April and May.

It is believed Anaheim will try to recoup something for Schultz in trade but that option only works if Schultz is prepared to negotiate with the team(s) Anaheim would trade him to.

A trade could lead to Schultz signing with the team of his choice and the Ducks getting something in return. Or Schultz could simply wait for the 30-day window to expire -- presumably on June 21 -- and begin entertaining free-agent offers from any team.

Schultz would not, however, be able to actually sign an NHL contract until July 1.

No reason has been given as to why Schultz has opted to explore this route rather than sign with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2008 Draft.

Next to New Jersey's Zach Parise and Nashville's Ryan Suter, the soon-to-be 22-year-old from West Kelowna, B.C., may be the most sought after NHL free agent.

Schultz was drafted 43rd overall by Anaheim while playing in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. He played another year in the BCJHL after he was drafted, which gave him the ability to pursue free-agency if he de-registered from school. He had just completed his junior season at Wisconsin and was one of the premier players in all of U.S. college hockey last season.