When it comes to defensive prospect Justin Schultz, after months of negotiating in good faith, the Anaheim Ducks have reverted to Plan B in an effort to sign him to an entry level contract before he hits unrestricted free agency on July 1st: character assassination.
Speaking at this weekend’s Select-A-Seat Event at the Honda Center -- an experience in which season ticket holders can roam and scour the arena to determine whether or not they may want to switch seat locations for the upcoming season -- GM Bob Murray answered a number of questions on Schultz’s impending UFA status.
Via Anaheim Calling:
"Put as much pressure on him as we can, have people call him. Scotty (Niedermayer) called him the other day. It's all we can do. We just hope he's a man of his word and lives up to his word. At day's end you hope his character prevails in this."
There’s nothing quite like pouring some proverbial gasoline on one’s reputation to make the guy feel wanted. I mean, if the three or four personal visits from Scott Niedermayer weren’t good enough to seal the deal, questioning the integrity of Schultz will obviously inspire him to pick up a pen and ask, “Where do I sign?”
As a primer for those of you who aren't familiar with Schultz, he was the Ducks' second round selection from the 2008 draft and was picked one selection after the Ottawa Senators selected Patrick Wiercioch. Now that four years have passed since that time, Schultz is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau took things one step further and alluded to the tampering charges that the Michael Russo touched upon last month.
"I don't know what the heck happened there. We were in Chicago and we still weren't playing great and I talked to the kid straight up and said we could use you right now on the big club. We won't send you to the Crunch, as soon as you're through with Wisconsin we'll get you down there on the ice. The kid looked me right in the eye and said I can't wait coach. It's what I've always wanted. We also told him since we were playing him now it would move him one year closer to making millions of dollars. The kid seemed really excited and it seemed like a done deal when all of a sudden something dramatically changed. Someone got to the kid, it seems. I don't know exactly what happened but there's something fishy in Denmark."
Captain Ryan Getzlaf chimed in too.
"I've never seen him play or anything but I hear he's pretty good. He better be really good because a lot of players, not just on this team, don't like the way he's handling this situation. We want guys who want to be here and be a part of our team. No one wants to deal with that sh... uh stuff in the locker room."
A lot of players, not just on this team, don’t like the way he’s handling this situation… ?
These must be the kind of conversations that go on between NHL players when it’s 3 a.m. in the morning in Finland and your country’s hockey team just lost 5-4 to the Americans.
Oddly enough, the organization has admitted that it sent Schultz one contract offer last week and it plans on sending him another on June 21st. It’s enough to question what the organization could possibly offer to Schultz in a second offer that they shouldn’t be offering already. Regardless of which team signs Schultz, the current CBA limits him to a two-year entry level contract that cannot exceed a base salary of $925,000.
One could raise the argument that Schultz could simply be haggling over ELC bonuses but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
"Justin Schultz will not be an Anaheim Duck,” Murray said, “He's informed us that he wishes to explore talks with the 29 other clubs, and that's his right under the current CBA. I cannot comment on the tampering charges at this time but if situations change I will let all of you know."
So why waste energy on another contract offer when it could be better spent: trying to trade Schultz’s rights; building its tampering case; or encouraging Teemu Selanne to deliver a bag of flaming dog shit to Schultz’s doorstep?
Watching the Schultz situation unfold over the next few weeks will be fascinating. The Senators certainly could use a young and inexpensive defenceman who profiles as a top four guy and will be under team control. Hell, even in the event that another organization signs him, who wouldn’t want to root for a tampering charge being brought against that team, especially when such a penalty can involve forfeiture of a draft pick and/or fine?