After a significant courting process, the Edmonton Oilers landed coveted rookie free agent defenseman Justin Schultz. For his part, Schultz is saying all the right things about earning a spot on the team, but let’s not forget that he spurned the team that drafted him – the Anaheim Ducks – much like Blake Wheeler once did with the Phoenix Coyotes. After a busy day that included signing Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray, Ducks GM Bob Murray took some time to vent about Schultz’s refusal to sign an entry-level deal with Eric Stephens.
He even evoked the polarizing situation between Eric Lindros and the Quebec Nordiques while doing so.
“I’m more confused than ever now,” Murray said. “I’ve moved on. If he had it in his mind that he wanted to play in Canada … OK. I get that … I’m a Canadian too. But Eric Lindros, when he didn’t want to play in Quebec, he went to his team that drafted him and said no I’m not going to play there. He allowed that team to make the move to get something for him. He told us numerous times he wanted to play for us.”
As with many players who become fairly high-profile free agents before they play an NHL shift (examples include Fabian Brunnstrom, Ville Leino and Jonas Gustavsson), it’s common for guys to see their value or spotlight grow a little too large. Even so, Schultz’s attention has been noteworthy, with legends Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey even pitching in to land him.
Schultz had a lot of suitors. That means he also spurned a lot of people, which could mean a spattering of well-informed boos here and there. If Murray’s comments resonate with fans, they might be most justified – and maybe quite a bit louder – in Anaheim.