Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 3/15/12
ANAHEIM, Calif. If conventional wisdom was in charge, Justin Schultz's plane would be on final approach to John Wayne Airport at this moment, his hockey bag and expectations for a lengthy NHL hockey career in tow. Patting each other on the back for selecting such a high-ceilinged NHL prospect with a 2008 second round pick under then-general manager Brian Burke, current GM Bob Murray and senior vice president of hockey operations David McNab patted each other on the back while waiting at baggage claim to whisk the NCAA's leading defensive scorer and Hobey Baker candidate to the Honda Center so he could begin his professional career during the Ducks' last-gasp playoff push. The 21-year old University of Wisconsin junior and two-time WCHA Defensive Player of the Year did not receive that itinerary, evidently. Schultz is now weighing options including a loophole in the current CBA that would allow him to become a free agent and sign with a team of his choice over the summer that with every passing day since his Badgers were eliminated from the WCHA playoffs make his commitment to Anaheim slightly less certain than a Jonas Hiller start in goal. Articulated clearly by SB Nation Wisconsin Badgers Blog Bucky's Fifth Quarter, the West Kelowna, B.C. native is still in the process of deciding between signing immediately with Anaheim, signing with Anaheim over the summer, or signing with another NHL team as a free agent this summer. Should he sign with Anaheim before the end of the year, he'd receive a pro-rated portion of his two-yea entry level deal, plus a 10 signing bonus, and would be eligible for restricted free agency one year earlier, in the summer of 2013. Should he wait to sign with a team over the summer, he'd receive a slightly more lucrative two-year entry level deal (925,000 instead of 875,000) and a marginally higher signing bonus, though he wouldn't become a restricted free agent until the summer of 2014. In a USCHO.com feature on Schultz, the NCAA's leading defensive scorer described the Ducks' efforts during the last off-season in trying to sign him after two years of college. "Right when the season was over, Anaheim gave me a couple weeks to think things over, but I had already made up my mind around Christmas time that I was coming back," said Schultz, who made the decision on his own. "They hounded me a little bit, but I made it pretty clear to them. They know that I want to play for them in the next couple years, and they trust me." That quote makes it seem like Schultz both wants and expects to be a Duck, but here we are, four days after Wisconsin's season ended, and there isn't much clarity on his situation, with Bucky's Fifth Quarter alluding to Schultz's desire to finish out his spring semester at UW despite the focused efforts by Anaheim to get him to Southern California as quickly and with as minimal of a headache as possible. Though Schultz has one year of college eligibility remaining, Chris Chelios has about as much of a chance of returning to Wisconsin for another year. Though largely anecdotal, it has also been speculated that when Murray traded Schultz's former Badger defensive partner Jake Gardiner to Toronto along with Joffrey Lupul for Francois Beauchemin, Schultz's allegiance towards the Ducks may have deflated slightly. The temperature in Murray's and McNab's offices rises incrementally with each passing day Schultz is absent from Honda Center, and considering the dismal first half experienced by Anaheim that resulted in Randy Carlyle's dismissal and the team's likely absence from the playoffs for the second time since the lockout despite lofty expectations, not being able to convince Schultz to play for the Ducks would be a significant mark against the Ducks' hockey operations in their overall performance evaluations. No decisions appear to be imminent for Schultz, whose 16 goals led all defensemen and whose 44 points bested the next-highest scoring defenseman by seven points. "He's just a tremendous player and a tremendous kid," Wisconsin assistant coach Bill Butters said in the USCHO.com feature. "Justin is a special player. Every team has maybe one of those every two or three years and we've had a couple of them the last couple years Blake Geoffrion, Ryan McDonagh and Schultz. Classy kids, good students and great athletes." NOTES: The Ducks beat the Red Wings 4-0 Wednesday evening at Honda Center and improved to 20-8-5 in the last 33 games. It was the first home shutout of Detroit in franchise history, the second overall, and marked the first time Anaheim beat Detroit by more than three goals. Kyle Palmieri recorded his first two-goal game in the NHL, drawing praise from Ryan Getzlaf, who netted two assists and a plus-three rating: "He's playing well. When he gets that puck on his stick, he knows what to do with it. He always has. It's a matter of him working the walls and stuff properly. He did that well tonight. He's worked hard in our zone, too. That is the way to stay in this leagu8, to work those boards and find those areas." With a second period goal that served as the game-winner, Teemu Selanne recorded his 1,400th NHL point, becoming just the third European-born player to reach that mark, after Jaromir Jagr (1,645 points) and Stan Mikita (1,467). One of six Ducks to have appeared in every game this season, he's on pace for a 69-point season. Jonas Hiller made his franchise record 30th consecutive start in net.
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