In some respects, free agent defenseman Justin Schultz is the most sought-after free agent -- even ahead of world-class talents like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 21-year-old out of Wisconsin hasn't played an NHL shift, but he oozes offensive talent so rare for a blueliner and will command an entry-level contract that's cheap compared to his ability that he has become a target of literally the entire league, including the New York Rangers.
As TSN's Bob McKenzie reports via twitter, the interest in Schultz sky-high and he soon may pare down the competition.
26 NHL teams have expressed interest in UFA dman Justin Schultz, a shortlist of 5, give or take a team or two, likely by this afternoon.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 27, 2012
As stipulated by the collective-bargaining agreement, Schultz can only earn a two-year entry-level contract (plus some bonus money), which is what makes this a unique situation. The decision will be totally his because every team will offer him the same salary. Thus, the right-handed shooting defenseman will weigh his options based on comfort level and role on the team. He's from Kelowna, British Columbia, and some have said he intends to stick in Canada, while others say they could see him playing with old college friends.
Wednesday is the first day teams can begin to formally make offers, but he cannot officially sign a deal until July 1, the start of free agency. It's very likely that his choice could be reported before that date.
The Rangers have just one right-handed shot (Dan Girardi) figured into their everyday plans next season, so they would offer Schultz a top-four role, some power play time and a chance to play with former Wisconsin teammates, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. Whether Schultz considers them as much as the Rangers covet him is another thing. It appears we may at least find out part of the answer very soon.