Once TSN’s Bob McKenzie confirmed that Anaheim Ducks’ prospect Justin Schultz had filed the necessary paperwork to officially withdraw from the University of Wisconsin, the hockey community was caught up in a maelstrom of speculation.
Thanks to the inordinate amount of media ballyhoo that accompanies the league wide pursuit of such a young and inexpensive asset, prospect porn indulging fans of the other 29 respective NHL franchises were licking their lips thinking that Schultz would miraculously fall into their favorite team’s lap without having to give anything up.
With Schultz’s official withdrawal from Wisco initiating the start of an exclusive 30 day window for the Ducks to speak with Schultz before the rest of the NHL’s organizations are permitted to speak with him (because you know, since being drafted in 2008, the Ducks haven’t had enough of an exclusive window to get him under contract), the question of whether teams would look move assets to acquire this negotiating window has come to the forefront…
…That is until the Minnesota Star Tribune’s Michael Russo hit the KFAN airwaves on Friday, discussing the Anaheim Ducks’ intent to file tampering charges.
Per Chuck Schwartz from Bucky’s 5th Quarter:
“Lot of people asking me about Justin Schultz. What happened today (withdrawing from school) is a formality. Schultz has been playing hardball from Anaheim since they thought they were signing him at the end of the year. Really at the end of the regular season they thought they were putting him in the lineup. Schultz is a Wisconsin defenseman.”
“I think somebody has gotten to Schultz, and told him ‘come here, come here.’ And I think that we’ll know who that team is, come July 1 wherever he signs. And that’s why I don’t think the Wild have a chance with him. Of course the Wild would be interested in someone like him.”
“But he has his mind set on going to one specific team right now. And whatever that team is, I guarantee you the Anaheim Ducks will go after them with a tampering charge, because the Anaheim Ducks have been building that case for the last couple of months. They have all sorts of e-mails from him basically saying, ‘I’m coming there, I’m coming there,’ and suddenly, for some reason, he’s not coming there.”-Michael Russo on KFAN 5/15/12
When pressed further by some Wild fans on the possibility of Schultz signing with their favorite team, Russo responded with the following:
@Russostrib What chance do the Wild have at Justin Schultz and how hated will he be in ANA?
— Kara Burgoyne (@Kmae5475) May 26, 2012
@Kmae5475 none. He’s obviously picked his team. My guess: Toronto
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) May 26, 2012
While it is unfair to Russo to believe that he’s implying that the Leafs will be the team to have charges filed against them, I think it would be equally as wrong to assume that Schultz doesn’t have some idea for which organization(s) he is interested in playing for.
Moreover, I agree with Schwartz when he writes that:
It wouldn’t be fair of me to say that Russo is accusing Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs of tampering, especially since he’s prefacing his Toronto claims as a ‘guess’. That said, you can draw your own conclusions when Russo makes the claim that the Ducks are preparing tampering charges, and Russo believes that Toronto is where Schultz will end up when free agency opens up on July 1.
As much fun as it would be as a blogger for one of the Leafs’ Northeast Division rivals to see MLSE have charges slapped against it and risk the forfeiture of cash and a prospect, this tampering threat could just as likely be a last resort designed to elicit fear from whichever organization(s) have the inside track on signing Schultz. It is the kind of ruse that could be used to extract tangible assets in trade, rather than lose the prospect for nothing when the Ducks’ exclusive signing window expires in mid-June and allows Schultz to officially sign with any team as an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
Adding to the Intrigue
Apparently Justin Schultz is represented by Wade Arnott – the same agent who represented Stephane Da Costa. I don’t want Senators fans to get ahead of themselves thinking that this will give them some kind of edge in the UFA process – assuming he gets there –but this relationship with management is certainly one of many factors that should make Ottawa viable destination for the collegiate product.