Don’t Expect a Massive Payday for Justin Schultz

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Taylor Hall got $6.0 million per season coming out of his entry-level contract. So did Jordan Eberle. So did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

By the sounds of it, Justin Schultz will not be joining the club.

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Craig MacTavish talked to the media from Jasper on Monday, and after discussing the deal with Jeff Petry he was asked whether we could expect to see a similar announcement with regard to Schultz. His answer was illuminating.

“That’s still ongoing,” he said, before offering some optimism. “I think that both sides fully expect to get a deal. We want to treat Justin very, very fairly.”

Well, that sounds good for Schultz, right?

“He’s working his way through the system,” MacTavish said. “I guess at this point that’s probably the friction point. When you even compare him to guys on our team, where he fits in is not going to be entirely reflective of our value of him, it’s more a reflection of the system and where he is in the system.”

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When MacTavish talks about where Schultz fits in, he must mean financially. In other words, he hopes the defenceman doesn’t take it personally when the Oilers pay him less than his high-profile teammates at forward.

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But while the Oilers clearly seem to have a line they don’t want to cross in terms of payment, that doesn’t mean they want to alienate a player they see as a key piece moving forward. As evidence of that, MacTavish offered the team’s decision not to take Schultz to club-elected arbitration.

“We didn’t file,” he said. “The thinking there was that we didn’t want to go through that divisive process with [Schultz]. He’s very much one of our core players and the last thing we want to do is get into that type of relationship with a guy like that because he’s got huge upside.”

That’s a pretty decent rationale, but there’s another good one, too. Sportsnet’s Tyler Dellow put it plainly:

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It’s pretty hard to put a number on defensive performance. It’s really easy to say, “yes, but POINTS!” and with Schultz leading the Oilers in average time on ice last season Edmonton would have some trouble arguing he was the disaster in his own end that he so often was.

Avoiding the route where the team hammers the player in front of the arbitrator and still ends up paying him money because he’s put points on the board seems like a smart route for the Oilers. We’ll see where the dollars come in on the final contract but from this vantage point the team’s resistance to just giving him the wunderkind special also seems like an intelligent way to proceed.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS