Reports: Ducks might file tampering charge regarding Justin Schultz

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It’s not often that a team fails to sign a prospect at Justin Schultz’s level,* but all indications are that the Anaheim Ducks won’t ink him in the 30-day exclusive negotiating window they’ve been granted. Then again, if you believe a rather interesting rumor floated by Michael Russo (via Chuck Schwartz), the Ducks might not have been the only NHL team whispering in Schultz’s ear.

The ins and outs of the actual negotiation process get a little fuzzy as you dig deeper, but there are two essential points to note that may or may not be interrelated.

1. Russo reports that the Ducks might go after a “team that already has gotten to Schultz” by filing a tampering charge. (By tampering, they’d mean negotiating with Schultz before it was “legal” to do so.)

2. Russo “guesses” that Schultz has “already made up his mind” to join the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Russo grounds that second guess in a variety of reasons including the fact that Schultz was once teammates with Jake Gardiner and both blueliners were drafted by former Ducks GM and current Leafs GM Brian Burke.

One might connect the dots that the Ducks will accuse the Maple Leafs of tampering, yet that’s not a guarantee, especially in a situation that’s more than a little cloudy.

Why you should care

The situation is worth watching because Schultz has emerged as a hot prospect. As detailed in this post, Bob McKenzie pegs him as the best potential unrestricted free agent behind Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Former general manager Craig Button even compared him to Drew Doughty.

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With the 30-day window of negotiation just beginning, it’ll be a while before any of these things can happen. Who knows; the Ducks might even find a way to convince him to sign an entry-level contract. Either way, the 2012 WCHA defenseman of the year might make almost as big an impact off the ice as he could on it if tampering charges and other controversies come to pass.

* – I’m not sure that Blake Wheeler is in the same class as Schultz from a “ceiling” standpoint, but this reminds me a bit of his refusal to sign with the Phoenix Coyotes.