March 30 2014 10:43AM
The Edmonton Oilers love Justin Schultz. It's obvious, made clear in all kinds of ways. The main one has to do with time on ice—Schultz has played more minutes this season than all but 50 NHL defensemen. Schultz has not delivered enough in those situations. What will the Oilers do?
TOI EVS, 2013-14 OILERS BLUE
- Justin Schultz 19:05
- Andrew Ference 17:48
- Jeff Petry 17:38
- Phil Larsen 16:33
- Martin Marincin 16:19
- Anton Belov 15:25
- Ladislav Smid 15:20
- Nick Schultz 14:29
- Mark Fraser 13:50
- Oscar Klefbom 13:32
Interesting to see who the coach actually values, isn't it? When we discuss 'best Oilers defensemen' this season, it's likely the answers will have a wide range. I'm onside with Petry, and yet Dallas Eakins—given the choice—would rather use Schultz for two additional minutes per game. Schultz also leads in total time on ice, time on ice per game, total shifts per game and length of shift.
Justin Schultz is the Oilers top defensive option at even strength and on the power play.
Schultz is getting enormous icetime, his Corsi Rel for 5x5 % is 42.9 and that's about three per cent worse than his mates. In summary, the Oilers have in effect taken a player who is not close to their best one and entrusted him with 19 minutes a night (or, one period per game at evens) to make a difference.
And this is his second season doing this, so we're creating a scene that is value negative. We're not 200 games into his career, but Justin Schultz has some issues as a possession player—and that should be an area of strength.
The Oilers have two RFA players this summer of note along the blue.
- Justin Schultz (Annual average salary, including bonuses): $3,775,000
- Jeff Petry (Annual average salary, including bonuses): $1,750,000
Petry signed a shorter term deal last night for a lower amount, and now that the bridge deal is over he'll look to cash in. Schultz had a base salary of $925,000 this season, but it's extremely unlikely Edmonton will be able to sign him for a reasonable number. Last September, Jonathan Willis looked at signing Schultz long term and came up with a 7-year deal at $4.75 million per season.
Schultz has not enjoyed a breakout season and the actual dollar amount might be less, but how much less? If Edmonton wants to land a big time defender—let's say Andrei Markov—to bridge the gap between the kids and the now, how much is too much?
And if they do land Markov, and sign Schultz long term for $4 million a year (I'm estimating here), then is there enough left for Petry?
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I've been operating under the assumption that Edmonton plans to proceed with Petry-Schultz as the RH side of their blueline. However, with Aaron Ekblad in their sights and a need to improve the LH side of the blue with a Markov (or Hainsey, or both), Jeff Petry may be the player who feels the squeeze.
Can the Oilers afford to sign both Schultz and Petry long term, while also adding a Markov and an Ekblad? I don't think they can, and if it follows that Justin Schultz is part of the rebuild, where then does that put Jeff Petry?