All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.
Justin Schultz (D)
2011-12 cap hit: N/A
After Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, he’s the most sought after UFA on the market. Which is unusual, because he’s never played a game in the NHL.
Schultz was originally drafted in 2007 by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round; however, he never signed with the club and has since blossomed with the Wisconsin Badgers into a potential “top-end defenseman,” according to former Flames GM Craig Button.
The word that’s often used when describing Schultz is “poise.” He’s the type of defenseman that can control the pace of the game and is cool under pressure. His skating is excellent; he has a great shot; and he’s no liability in his own end.
Schultz reportedly wants to sign with a team that can guarantee him a roster spot and playing time. So, where could he end up?
Vancouver is a potential landing spot, as Schultz is a Kelowna, BC, native.
Edmonton is close to home as well, and signing with the Oilers would give him the opportunity to develop with the likes of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov.
Senators GM Bryan Murray said he thinks “it’s down to 3-5 teams, and I believe we’re one of those teams.”
Red Wings GM Ken Holland hopes to sell Schultz on the “tremendous opportunity” in Detroit.
The Maple Leafs, Flyers and Rangers are also believed to be in the mix.
Schultz can’t officially sign until July 1, but he can listen to pitches this week.
More UFA spotlights
For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”
On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.
With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.
“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”
As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.
It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.
Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?
We’ll know in a month.
Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:
The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.
The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.
If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.
Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”
And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.
While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.