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Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Chase for free agent Schultz heats up

By Pierre LeBrun

Prized free-agent college defenseman Justin Schultz spent Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning prepping with his representatives at Newport Sports in the Toronto area for the biggest decision in his young hockey life.

"We’re very comfortable with relation to the process we’re going through," veteran agent Don Meehan, who heads Newport Sports, told ESPN.com Tuesday night. "We started from scratch Tuesday in terms of due diligence and sharing all the information with Justin. We’re real comfortable with where we’re at."

Meehan and Wade Arnott of Newport are handling the Schultz file. The expectation was that once Wednesday afternoon rolled around, Newport would be open for business and ready to take calls on Schultz based on a list of teams the player and his agents will have drawn up. He’s not going to agree to terms in one day. It’s likely going to take a few days but possibly could be wrapped up by the weekend.

Schultz, a native of Kelowna, British Columbia, is considered by many NHL executives the most sought-after unrestricted free agent behind only Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.

Not bad for a guy who hasn’t even played an NHL game.

Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6, saw his stock rise dramatically the past few years at the University of Wisconsin. Most NHL scouts will tell you they believe he can step right in next season and play important minutes in the NHL.

Because he must sign an entry-level rookie contract to begin his NHL career, the pitch from teams won’t be so much about money but rather about the fit, about his role with their team, etc. It’s believed Canadian teams have the inside track because of his desire to play in his home country, although the likes of the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings also should be seriously considered. I still think the Edmonton Oilers will be given strong consideration, given their desperate need for defensive help and their collection of awesome, young talent up front.

So, I believe the front-runners for Schultz are: Vancouver, Edmonton, Rangers, Philadelphia, Detroit and Toronto. Also, I can confirm the Oilers and Canucks brass in the Toronto area to hopefully meet with Newport today or tomorrow on Schultz.

As for Parise ...


Like Schultz, star captain Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils is represented by Meehan and Arnott of Newport Sports. Parise spent most of Monday chatting with his agents, and more conversations need to take place this week as he remains undecided about his future, with free agency opening July 1.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello told me Tuesday that he would continue with his best efforts to retain Parise. Lamoriello has had a running dialogue with the folks at Newport. At this point, all remains possible: an 11th-hour deal to re-sign with the Devils; hitting the July 1 market and then circling back to the Devils to re-sign; or going to July 1 and finding a new NHL home. Meehan said no decision has been made yet.

Doan's future

Shane Doan has never tested the free-agent market, playing his entire NHL career with one franchise.

But with the ownership situation still unsettled in Phoenix, the Coyotes can’t re-sign their longtime captain. So when Sunday comes and the UFA market opens, Doan surely will get attention from other NHL teams.

"Shane has some concerns about signing a term contract with us given the uncertainty of our ownership situation," Coyotes GM Don Maloney told ESPN.com via email. "In addition, he is not overly excited about signing a one-year contract. I am confident we will ultimately sign Shane to a new contract. However, it may not happen prior to July 1."

This and that


Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford confirmed via text message Tuesday that contract talks had begun with newly acquired C Jordan Staal. The center has one more year left on his current deal before becoming UFA-eligible in July 2013. ... D Ryan Suter and his agent, Neil Sheehy, met again Monday to discuss their plans. Nothing has changed; he remains bound for free agency while keeping the Nashville Predators very much in the mix. ... RW Jaromir Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, told ESPN.com he was planning to talk again with the Flyers on Wednesday. Jagr, 40, becomes UFA on Sunday. ... The Kings’ brass also was set to meet with pending UFA winger Dustin Penner on Wednesday.