Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Parise to be in Toronto for start of free agency Sunday; Schultz chooses Oilers

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild off-season news Updated: June 30, 2012 - 3:08 PM

UPDATED

In the daily Zach Parise update, I'm told that the presumptive free agent will be at his agent's Mississauga, Ontario, offices for the start of free agency at 11 a.m. CT Sunday instead of sitting at his home in Minnesota.

That's where teams will be able to make in-person pitches and presentations or call him up. He is expected to speak one last time with the Devils today, but at this juncture, why would he re-sign with them this close to free agency?

Parise will likely want to see who's interested and what they're offering, and if he wants, he can always circle back to the team he captains after free agency begins.

As has been well-reported, half the league or more will likely make a run at Parise, including and especially Parise's hometown Wild. In fact, my guess is the Wild brass will be beating down the doors of Newport's office shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday.

On the other hand, as previously reported, fellow hot-shot free agent Ryan Suter will be at his farm in Wisconsin while his agent is fielding calls in International Falls, Minn. Suter is not expected to meet with teams Sunday.

In the meantime, in a drama that played out humorously on Twitter, Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher just recently received a phone call from highly-sought University of Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz that he hasn't accepted the Wild's contract offer.

He instead chose to play for the Edmonton Oilers.

Schultz, 21, who had the Wild on a list of six finalists with the Rangers, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto, met with Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo earlier this week. I'm told the tandem gave an "excellent presentation" and this was "a very tough decision for Justin."

The drama played out on Twitter when one-by-one teams in the race were kicked off the Island. You see, Schultz didn't tell the Oilers he chose them until he called each GM on his final list personally. But he had trouble getting in touch with some, so it took a little longer than expected. First, the Rangers dropped off. Then, Toronto. Next, Vancouver. Next, Minnesota. And finally, Ottawa.

A lot of hype Schultz will now have to live up to.

Schultz, drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in 2008, declined to sign with Anaheim after withdrawing from UW after his junior season. Taking advantage of the CBA, Schultz became a free agent June 25 after the Ducks didn't trade or sign him. He reportedly had 26 teams express interest, narrowed them down to six and met with each in Toronto. He has the same agents as Parise, incidentally, so maybe the Wild's "excellent presentation" will go over differently with Parise.

They'll certainly be offering him a mammoth contract.

Schultz led all NCAA defensemen with 16 goals and 44 points last season and was a Hobey Baker finalist for the second year in a row. He was also a two-time WCHA First Team All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year.

The Wild was up against hefty competition. For instance, the Oilers had Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey call Schultz and were able to entice him by passing the puck to young stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. The Wild was up against his hometown Canucks, the Center of the Hockey Universe Maple Leafs, and of course, the Rangers, who have a persuasive way about them and are full of former Badgers.

Plus, every team essentially is offering the same $925,000 a year contract with a maximum of $2.85 million in potential bonuses, so it's not like the Wild could do anything to sweeten the pot the way it could, say, Sunday when free agency starts with Parise and Suter.

Speaking of which, that, too, is when Schultz can officially sign.

Stay tuned here Sunday and beyond. Remember, Suter could take awhile to make his decision and it wouldn't be shocking if Parise's decision goes past Sunday as well. So don't hold your breath and turn blue.

For real-time free agency updates, quips and tidbits, be sure to follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/russostrib.

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