Rejoice in the moment Oiler fans as a high profile free agent has finally selected Edmonton as his destination of choice when every team in the league was offering him a contract.
Yes, the week long media craze is over and it turns out that Justin Schultz has chosen Edmonton as the place to begin his NHL career.
Over the last few hours twitter was basically taken over the Canadian hockey community watching for news of the announcement and one by one, the teams on the previously announced shortlist were notified that they were unsuccessful in their pursuit of the soon-to-be 22 year old defenceman.
Follow me after the jump for more on this story.
For the very few of you out there who haven't become familiar with Justin Schultz in recent days, here is a quick recap. Schultz was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 NHL Draft. This is the draft that will go down in history as being one of the best drafts ever for young defencemen. Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, John Carlson, Tyler Myers, Erik Karlsson, Michael Del Zotto, Jake Gardiner, Luca Sbisa, Slava Voyonov, Travis Hamonic, Colten Teubert and Marco Scandella were all taken in the first two rounds that year. Also among that group, selected 43rd overall by the Anaheim Ducks (ironically with the pick surrendered by the Oilers following the Dustin Penner offer sheet) was Justin Schultz.
Schultz has been starring at the University of Wisconsin for the last few years putting up 18g-29-47p in 41 games in 2010/11 and following that up with 16g-28a-44p in 37 games this past season. Those are extremely impressive numbers.
The acquisition of Schultz is a godsend for the Oilers' depth chart on the blueline. With Jeff Petry serving as the only legitimate right-handed shooting NHL player among the group, the team needed to add someone on the right side, and by adding Schultz, a right-handed shot who projects to be a very good puck mover and powerplay quarterback, the team appears to have killed two birds with one extremely fortunate stone.
It is important to note here for fans that are overly excited by the hype surrounding this young player that the contract he will sign tomorrow with the Oilers will be his entry-level deal. What that means is that this is a player who has precisely ZERO games of NHL experience and as a result, expectations for an immediate impact player should be tempered somewhat. That said, he is likely the most promising defensive prospect the team has had in many years and will almost assuredly begin the season in the team's top six whenever the labour issues are resolved and we get back to playing hockey.
Despite his inexperience, the Signing of Schultz is most certainly a big deal in many ways. While it may be corny, the City of Edmonton has taken a number of groin punches right in their ego in the last few years beginning with Chris Pronger, and continuing with Michael Nylander and Dany Heatley. While Schultz is still just a prospect, if this makes the people of Edmonton feel a bit redeemed, then go ahead and enjoy it.
More importantly, for a franchise that is desperate to have their young defensive prospects catch up to the run-away freight train that is the ridiculous collection of talent they have at forward, Schultz is a perfect fit. Any time a team trying to build a strong core of young players can add a guy that will likely slot in the top 10 in their "Top 25 under 25", you'd have to consider it a good day.
I could spend another 500 words profiling Justin Schultz, but Jonathan Willis has already taken the liberty of doing so for me here in an article he wrote early in the Schultz-mania process.
There is certainly much left to do before this team is ready to make the long climb back up the standings, but signing Schultz is certainly a significant step in the right direction and, despite our frequent criticisms of them on this site (among numerous others), Oilers' management deserves credit for doing what was necessary to get the job done here.
It's a good day to be an Oiler fan.