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Schultz signing enables Oilers to make a statement

The SportsXchange

The Edmonton Oilers had a fairly slow July 1, but only because they stole the show on June 30.

Edmonton, normally an automatic "No" when prominent free agents are deciding where to play, landed one of the biggest fish of the summer, University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz.

"This is such an important decision, not only for Justin, but for us," general manager GM Steve Tambellini said after the coveted blue-liner picked Edmonton over 29 other teams. "To have him select the Oilers at this time speaks volumes to what people in the league, the players, are seeing. It's confirmation that good things are happening.

"He was in a position to make whatever choice he wanted. It wasn't a financial decision; all teams could offer the same contract. It was where he wanted to grow as a player. And he chose the Edmonton Oilers."

It shows that the rest of the NHL might be taking the Oilers program seriously again after nearly a decade of failure and underachievement.

"Look at the team they have now," said Schultz, who wanted to be part of a team that includes Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov.

"Their young guys are turning into superstars, and I want to be a part of that. To be able to play and have success with that group for a number of years is very exciting."

While a handful of management teams flew to Toronto to make personal pleas for Schultz's services, at no point, contrary to rumor, did the 21-year-old ever ask for guaranteed ice time.

"It was never about anyone guaranteeing me a spot. That's not who I am," he said. "I want to earn my spot. Edmonton was really clear about that. They said I had to earn my spot on the team. I don't want to be portrayed as someone who was looking for a guaranteed spot. That's not me."
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