Justin Schultz, free agency and the CBA

Last week, several people — most notably Bob McKenzie — reported that University of Wisconsin senior Justin Schultz, 2008 second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, had officially withdrawn from school. McKenzie and everyone else indicated that this either (a) gave the Ducks 30 days with Schultz’s exclusive rights, or (b) made Schultz a free agent on July 1, or both.

I don’t claim to know everything that’s in the CBA, nor do I know how the league interprets its various clauses and sub-clauses (since their interpretations can be, well, whimsical), but this doesn’t make sense to me.

The CBA clearly indicates that clubs retain the rights of unsigned collegiate (or college-bound) draft picks, for four years after the year of their selection — ending either (1) if the player graduates from said college, August 15th of the year of his graduation, or (2) June 1 four years after the year of selection, if the player does not graduate. (See the CBA blockquotes below for details.)

Schultz withdrew from school last week — the week before June 1 — for a reason. That reason seems pretty obviously to be that he wants to secure an NHL contract now, and obviously not with the Ducks.

UPDATE: Schultz is a junior this year, not a senior as I assumed (oops), so if he stayed in school he would have another year of eligibility and the Ducks would retain his rights until August 15 of 2013. 

I don’t see anything in the CBA about “thirty days”, other than relates to qualifying offers, which don’t apply to unsigned college draft picks. Although it can apply to unsigned juniors players in the first year after their draft year, per 8.6(i)(a) — it still doesn’t apply to Schultz’s situation now vis-a-vis a 30 day ticking clock. And there’s another issue: Schultz was playing in the BCHL, which is juniors but not major juniors as defined by the CBA (juniors and major juniors refers in the CBA to the CHL, which comprises the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only). I don’t mean to muddy the waters. No matter what kind of juniors Schultz was playing when he was drafted, I don’t see how a 30-day ticking clock kicks in. Ever, but especially not now.

And I don’t see why Schultz would only become a UFA on July 1. That only applies to players who already have contracts (all NHL contracts expire on 7/1 in the year of expiration).

In my possibly-flawed understanding, Justin Schultz becomes a UFA on June 1. Today.

If you know something that contradicts this, please speak up.

Here’s some CBA for you:

Article 8

8.6

(c) College Players.

(i) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19 is a bona fide college student at the time of his selection in the Entry Draft, or becomes a bona fide college student prior to the first June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft, and remains a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for his services through and including the August 15 following the graduation of his college class. The Club need not make a Bona Fide Offer to such Player to retain such rights.

Schultz entered college the Fall of 2009, more than a year after June 1, 2008. He spent the 2008-2009 season playing  in juniors for the Westside Warriors of the BCHL. And he will not graduate. So (i) doesn’t apply.

(ii) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19 is a bona fide college student at the time of his selection in the Entry Draft, or becomes a bona fide college student prior to the first June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft, and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft. The Club need not make a Bona Fide Offer to such Player to retain such rights.

As with (i), Schultz did not become a college student within a year of being drafted.

(iii) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section 8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and remains a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain the exclusive rights of negotiation for his services through and including the August 15 following the graduation of his college class.

Schultz did not (will not) graduate.

(iv) If a Player drafted at age 18 or 19, who had received a Bona Fide Offer in accordance with Section 8.6(a)(ii) above, becomes a bona fide college student prior to the second June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft and does not remain a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting Club shall retain exclusive rights for the negotiation of his services until the fourth June 1 following his selection in the Entry Draft.

(v) If a Player drafted at age 20 or older […doesn’t apply to Schultz]

Article 10

10.1

(d) Draft Related Unrestricted Free Agents

(i) Any Player not eligible for claim in any future Entry Draft pursuant to this Agreement and not on a Club’s Reserve List shall be an Unrestricted Free Agent.

[…]

(ii) Each Player referred to in subsection (d)(i) above shall, during the period of his Free Agency […] be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction […] and without being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.

 

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