2012 Free Agency Preview: Could The New York Rangers Snag Justin Schultz, Or Is He On His Way To Toronto?

Hey guys, one of the other features we will be running over the course of the 2012 off-season is Free Agent Previews. With July 1st right around the corner, and the Rangers speculated to make another big splash, we will preview some upcoming free agents that the Rangers could potentially be targeting.

Justin Schultz has been a hot topic in the mainstream media for the last week or so, and it's with good reason. The 20-year-old defenseman from the University of Wisconsin, who was originally the second round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks back in 2008, is expected to become a free agent on July 1st.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, Schultz is already ranked in the top three for upcoming free agents on July 1st, and he sits behind both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. As you can see, this kid is kind of a big deal right now, mainly due to his age and the assumed impact he can have on a team right away. That's why the Rangers need target this kid heavily come July 1st. With the uncertainty still surrounding Michael Sauer for next season, the Rangers might not be able to afford leaving that top-four hole unfilled.

Follow after the jump for more.

Of course, Schultz isn't the only player that can fill that void, but why pass up looking into a 20-year-old who has the potential to become a future superstar on the blue line? Not to mention, it wouldn't cost a team any prospects or drafts picks to acquire him. I sure wouldn't pass up kicking the tires on him. These types of situations don't come around too often.

A lot of people may be asking why Schultz would pick the Rangers over everyone else. Well, to start, he was teammates with both Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh back in his freshman season at Wisconsin. That alone could sway his decision.

Secondly, the Rangers are a very young team that has a the potential to compete for many season to come. They are a tight-knit group both on and off the ice, and they would welcome Schultz with open arms. Just look at how quickly Chris Kreider fit in these past playoffs.

The Rangers aren't the only team that is gunning after Schultz, though. A couple days back, CBS Sports reported that Schultz may have already decided to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, which would render all this speculation useless. Like Stepan and McDonagh, Schultz was also teammates with current Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, and was also drafted by former Ducks GM, and current Leafs GM, Brian Burke. If Burke was that high on him back then, I can only imagine he would do everything in his power to get him back.

A lot of people have already started connecting the dots, and believe that he will land with the Maple Leafs. Let's be honest, there has been a ton of speculation on Schultz and the Leafs; there has been almost no talk of any other team. Again, all of this is speculation, but there's a lot of smoke for there not to be at least some fire.

As always, a lot can change when a player hits the open market, and nothing can be official until July 1st. It definitely is a sticky situation right now, and something that will draw a ton of attention as his 30-day waiting period (which started once he opted out of school) comes to an end.

What do you guys think though? Do you think Schultz has already made his decision? Or do you think he's still open to coming to New York?

- Joe Fortunato contributed to this article.