Originally 26 NHL teams expressed interest in Justin Schultz before he sat down with his agent to begin the negotiating process. It was believed, however, that Shultz had a list of his own, a list with as few as six names on it. Last night, one of the teams who was thought to be a big player (the Detroit Red Wings) were told they were no longer in the running.
As far as the media knows, which isn't much since Schultz has been so quiet throughout this entire process, the New York Rangers are still in the hunt. And while it's believed that Schultz wants to play in Western Canada, the Rangers have a few things working to their advantage.
Join me below the jump for those reasons.
The Wisconsin Connection: The Rangers currently employ two of Schultz's former teammates on the roster in Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. Both currently play vital roles for the Rangers and are expected to be a big part of the team's future. While it's unknown how friendly the trio is, it can still be an advantage for the Rangers because ...
The College Express: John Tortorella had four different players make the jump from the NCAA to the NHL (some with a minor stop in the AHL) during his tenure as head coach of the Rangers. McDonagh, Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider all played major roles for the Rangers this year. And since Schultz is also believed to be looking for a guarantee with his role on the team, this might play a major role.
Defense, Defense, Defense: Here's another role Tortorella plays in all of this. This year Tortorella had two very young defenseman playing major roles (McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto). Michael Sauer would have joined that list as well, had he of not gotten injured. Stu Bickel also played a role, but not a big one. The Rangers can point to how the youth on the blue line has flourished and that if he earns it there's no reason why Schultz can't play big minutes right away.
Cup Contention: The New York Rangers came two wins away from the Stanley Cup last season. If Schultz wants to be on a contending team, he's not going to find one on his shortlist without the Rangers. Would Schultz be willing to go to another team, or would the Rangers' ability to be contenders be able to sway him?
Either way, the Rangers can use him. In the end, depending on what he wants, he could use the Rangers too.