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Meltzer's Musings: Justin Schultz

May 29, 2012, 7:37 AM ET [278 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Numerous people have asked me if the Flyers are among the teams interested in potential rookie free agent Justin Schultz. While I have little doubt that the Flyers -- like many teams around the NHL -- would like to land the now-former University of Wisconsin Badgers defenseman, the odds are against him coming to Philadelphia.

For right now, no team but the Anaheim Ducks can publicly express its interest in the 21-year-old (he'll turn 22 on July 6). The team that drafted the offensive defenseman in the second round of the 2008 Entry Draft has an exclusive 30-day window with which to come to terms on a contract. After that, he can become a free agent.

That is not to say, of course, that other NHL teams have not surreptitiously contacted the Schultz camp. But some clubs may have been more blatant about it than others.

There are reports that Anaheim plans to file a tampering grievance with the NHL if Schultz signs with certain other teams whom they believe have already pursued the player. The Toronto Maple Leafs are rumored to be the frontrunners to sign Schultz and also said to be the most likely candidate for tampering charges from the Ducks.

The biggest reason why I don't think Schultz will end up on the Flyers is that he will likely want to be in a situation where he will immediately be penciled in for significant ice time at the NHL level. I'm not sure Philadelphia is the best place for a rookie defenseman who enters the league with high external expectations and a lot a media hype.

While Schultz has been an outstanding offensive defenseman at the collegiate level, his defensive game and efforts to add muscle have been a work in progress. He's a fine NHL prospect for sure but he's almost certainly going to experience the usual ups and downs -- both defensively and offensively -- that rookie defensemen go through at the top level. Philly does not have a track record of being patient with the growing pains of young NHL defensemen through several years of development.

Nevertheless, it is not often that a rookie of Schultz's caliber hits the free agent market. He would be a nice acquisition for any club, including the Flyers. If Schultz becomes a free agent, I would think the Flyers would make their best pitch to him. But they will have plenty of competition.

Earlier this spring, the Flyers made two lower-profile rookie free agent defense signings. The organization inked University of Maine offensive defenseman Matt Mangene and Medicine Hat Tigers puck-moving defenseman Matt Konan to entry-level deals.

Neither player has Schultz's NHL offensive upside. However, the undersized (5-10, 190 pound) Mangene, 23, scored 16 goals and 34 points for Maine this season. He got into five late-season games for the Phantoms. Konan, 21, had 54 points and was a plus-21 as an overager in the WHL this past season.

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