The Edmonton Oilers decision to take sniper forward Nail Yakupov over steady defenceman Ryan Murray looks even better now that the Oilers landed prized unrestricted free agent defenceman Justin Schultz.
In dramatic fashion that played out on Twitter on Saturday afternoon, Schultz and his representatives began contacting the six teams that made his shortlist. The Canucks, Rangers, Wild and Maple Leafs were all informed that they had lost their bid to sign the native of West Kelowna, B.C. to a three-year entry level contract.
The decision came down to the Senators and Oilers, the two most talented young teams based in Canada, and Schultz chose Edmonton, which even had Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey call Schultz on the Oilers behalf to help their recruiting cause.
Schultz felt that the Oilers provided the best opportunity to grow with a young group of talented players, including forward Taylor Hall who also met with Schultz to try and sway him to come to Edmonton.
"You look at what they have there, the type of team there with all those young guys who are turning into superstars," Schultz said. "The have a strong core of young prospects and that was intriguing to me.
"The coach, Ralph Krueger, also came in to talk to me about what style he wants to play and I didn't think there would be a better fit."
Schultz will travel to Edmonton to meet with local reporters and some of the Oilers staff on Sunday. His two-year, entry-level contract has a base salary of $925,000, but potential bonuses will make him a cap hit of $3,775,000.
Schultz, who turns 22 on Friday, remarked that he hasn't been promised a spot on the Oilers roster next season, but with his strong skating and offensive ability he sure had scouts excited about his future. Twenty-six teams were interested in signing him when he became an unrestricted free agent last Monday.
"I don't want to be the guy that gets a guaranteed spot. I want to earn it and you should have to earn it in the NHL."
Originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in 2007, the University of Wisconsin product became a free agent through a loophole when he left school in February.
"This is a massive day for the Oilers because of how people view what we're doing here," Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said.
Edmonton now has 18 players under contract with a $47.5-million payroll. That means the Oilers still have $22.7-million in salary cap space.
Although Tambellini said the Oilers will be active when the free-agent frenzy opens its doors on Sunday, here is projected look at what the Oilers season-opening roster looks like now:
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Nail Yakupov - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Jones - Eric Belanger - Sam Gagner
Ben Eager - Anton Lander - Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Ladislav Smid - Justin Schultz
Corey Potter - Jeff Petry
Devan Dubnyk - Nikolai Khabiblulin
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