Schultz didn't like LeBron-like drama

Defenceman Justin Schultz, drafted by Anaheim, refused to sign a deal with the Ducks and instead...

Defenceman Justin Schultz, drafted by Anaheim, refused to sign a deal with the Ducks and instead played for the University of Wisconsin. He's now an Edmonton Oiler. (AFP)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:29 PM ET

EDMONTON - The way the LeBron James-esque drama played out, you half expected the Justin Schultz media conference to consist of he, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov on stage at an Oilers pep rally predicting the number of championships ahead.

“Not one, not two, not three, not four....”

It got that stupid.

The highly-sought after free agent defenceman knew when he turned down the Anaheim Ducks and climbed through a CBA loophole to become an unrestricted free agent that it would generate attention.

But not like this

Not second-by-second play-by-play. Not a league wide frenzy. Not lifelong hockey men with Stanley Cup rings pleading for his services. And not widespread criticism over the way it all played out.

Schultz, at his Oilers unveiling Sunday morning, said he hated “how big it got.”

“It was surreal and a little overwhelming at times. I definitely didn’t expect to get this much attention, I never wanted it to get that big. I haven’t played a game in the NHL yet. It was overwhelming.”

The more this thing took on a life of its own, the more speculation and circumstantial evidence somehow morphed into on-line fact, the more the 21-year-old came across as a prima-donna.

He refused to sign with the team that drafted him. He had respected general managers flying to Toronto to all but beg. And it was widely assumed he was insisting on guaranteed minutes and power play time.

Sounds like a nice kid.

The Anaheim stuff is on him. He has to wear that. The rest was just a process that got away from him. The fog of war, if you will.

The teams asked to meet in person and make their pitches, not the other way around. And there were never any promises of how much he’d play.

“Some people made it out that I was trying to get guaranteed ice time or a guaranteed spot, but that was NEVER, ever the case,” he said, adding he’s not at all like the first draft of his public image.

“That’s not me at all, that’s never been me. I’m always a guy who’s going to earn what I get and I’m going to do that here when I come to camp.”

As for Anaheim, Schultz says it was simply business. He could either sign with the Ducks or take a loophole in the CBA that allowed him to play in a place where hockey matters.

“It was nothing ever against Anaheim at all. They are great people and I enjoyed my time there. It was a matter of me having the option of choosing where I wanted to play.

“Playing in Canada has always been a huge thing for me. Growing up around the game, you definitely see the passion up here. It was just an option and I took it.”

While much was made of the Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey phone calls, Schultz says it was really Ralph Krueger who had the greatest impact.

“Sitting in that interview when he was talking I was getting chills. I was getting fired up. It just excited me. The way he loves the game is a cool thing to be a part of.”

He knows there will be considerable pressure on him, after all this, to step in and be good. Not only did he turn up the volume on his arrival, he’s joining a team that is all out of rebuilding years - anything even closely resembling the last three seasons and it’ll get ugly around here.

“I guess only time is going to tell,” he said. “But I think I’m ready for it.”

Follow me on TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos