Here we are, on the morning of the eve of the culmination of the Justin Schultz Sweepstakes, and it seems as if we Minnesota Wild fans have a a bit more investment in the entire boondoggle than before. We're on the "short list"- the mythical list of suitors deemed worthy enough of peddling our wares and ideologies to the now NCAA free agent in hopes of well, recruiting him into an Iron Range Red jersey.
There's been much made about the entire situation- Schultz, by and large considered an elite prospect, used a loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement to escape the chains of Anaheim's control, who took him in the Second Round in 2008. Basically a lock to play for The Ducks as soon as his season ended at Wisconsin, Schultz ultimately put the brakes on the jump and now here we are. As this has gone on, there's been some character assassination attempts, particularly from principals in the Anaheim organization, and despite Mike Eaves' insistence that Schultz is a quality kid, he's now been tagged with the labels of "diva" and "prima donna" for essentially gaining control of where he'll play in the National Hockey League.
Is that wrong? This isn't an Eric Lindros situation where he flat out refused to go Anaheim, which by all accounts is a great place to play. The loophole is right there, available to EVERY NCAA player who is a property of an NHL club, and he exercised his right to use it.
Which brings us to the present juncture. The Wild did have a face to face meeting with Schultz and tried to sell their bill of goods. I imagine the sales pitch went something like this; we've got 7 high profile prospects turning pro, which means the future is bright. We've also got a good core of veterans to offset and mentor the incoming youth. You're familiar with playing in front of <s>HUGE</s> big raucous crowds at The Xcel Energy Center, and which St. Paul in general. We've got two former Badgers on roster, hoping to sign a third in Ryan Suter. We've got coaches in the system who have NHL experience and relish teaching young players just as much as they do winning. Most importantly, there is not another player with your skill set in our organizational pipeline, with exception of the recently drafted Matt Dumba. A good sized, mobile, right shot offensive defenseman who can control play, and we feel that you would be a great fit with what we're trying to do here, be a perennial Stanley Cup Contender for an indefinite amount of time.
Then Chuck Fletcher plays a rap video of him and Brent Flahr singing "Boats N Hoes."
I've long felt that Justin Schultz is/was a top three Free Agent priority, maybe even above Zach Parise- sure, Parise will bring buzz, but when you look at the sort of commodity Schultz is, and that he'll be under team control for the next few years with his best years still ahead of him, that makes him very attractive. We flat out don't have a player like him on the depth chart. I'd take him in a heart beat.
Regardless of the outcome, Schultz will likely still be vilified for how this has transpired, subject to resentment from some. That being said, the GM who gets him to sign on the dotted line will get praise for getting a blue chip prospect for no cost- an odd paradox when essentially both parties get what they want.