Is Jake Gardiner’s five-year extension a fair comparable for Justin Schultz?


On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs shifted course dramatically on defenceman Jake Gardiner, signing the former University of Wisconsin standout to a five-year contract with an annual cap hit of $4.05 million.

In Edmonton, meanwhile, Justin Schultz remains unsigned. Could he sign a contract comparable to the one his ex-Badgers teammate just inked?

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The Comparison

Jake Gardiner is a 6’2”, 184-pound puck-moving defenceman who turned 24 on July 4, and was originally selected by the Anaheim Ducks early in the 2008 Draft.

Justin Schultz is a 6’2”, 188-pound puck-moving defenceman who turned 24 on July 6, and was originally selected by the Anaheim Ducks early in the 2008 Draft.

So far, so good.

Gardiner averaged 18:10 at evens, 2:16 on the power play and 0:37 on the penalty kill for Toronto last season. Schultz posted 18:55 at evens, 3:26 on the power play and 0:58 on the penalty kill in Edmonton. Schultz got the bigger push, but the usage was similar. Schultz’s offence is better than Gardiner’s – there are lots of ways to express this, but 60 points in 122 games vs. 65 points in 167 games is good enough for our purposes.

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On the other hand, Gardiner’s Relative Corsi rating has consistently been good, and while he’s had a zonestart push he has outperformed it. In other words, Toronto has out-shot the opposition by more than we would expect with Gardiner on the ice if Gardiner were an average defenceman on the team. Schultz’s Relative Corsi rating has not been nearly as good, and while he hasn’t had the same zonestart push that Gardiner has, that doesn’t make up the difference. Even measured against a terrible Oilers’ blue, the team gets out-shot with Schultz on the ice by more than the average.

But even that’s hardly conclusive. Schultz has been welded to Andrew Ference and Nick Schultz for pretty much the entirety of his NHL career; Gardiner has had Cody Franson and Luke Schenn. I don’t think the world of Schenn, but do consider Franson to be the best player on that list of four by a considerable margin.

In short, these guys are close; if I had to commit to one and only one for the next five seasons I don’t know which I’d choose.

The Range


Tyler Dellow wrote about other comparables for Schultz a few weeks back, and noted six defencemen on long-term deals in the $4.0 million range:

With the exception of Hedman, who skews the list, most of these guys look to me like they were reasonably in the range of Schultz and Gardiner when they signed their long-term deals.

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I don’t think $20 million or so over five years is a bargain price for a player like Schultz, but I also don’t think it’s a contract that the Oilers are going to deeply regret. At that rate, if he’s a decent second-pairing guy the team will be okay; right now that takes a bit of projection on our part but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation. From Schultz’s perspective, it’s not the Hall/Eberle/RNH deal, but it’s probably as much money as he can reasonably expect at term.


  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    The salary structure is hockey is so out of whack. In the other team sports, big stars get the big bucks and the supporting cast take a smaller chunk. How anyone can think either Gardiner or Schultz are worth anything close to $4 million is delusional.

    But that’s the problem with todays hockey. Medium level players are overpayed because they play responsible, don’t make mistakes, stop your opponents from scoring (in other words, safe and boring). Where is the creativity, the risk taking part of the game. It doesn’t exist anymore. The league caps what the top players can make, which is a huge mistake.

    • It’s not fair, perhaps, but a huge mistake? The thing to keep in mind is that at the top end – the Crosbys and the like – the NHL has no league that can consistently compete in terms of dollars (only a very few KHL teams can afford that kind of cash).

      The threat is to those medium-level NHL’ers, because the KHL can compete dollar-wise for them. So having a cap that inflates salaries to medium-level players is actually not a bad way to keep as much talent as possible in the league.

      • Lowe But Now High Expectations

        With current world events, how long will the KHL be a viable option. And also the NBA went through this already. Many medium level players went to europe to play because the NBA pays top stars big money. And at the end of the day, more people want to see the Lebron’s and Kobe’s as apposed to defensive specialists.

    • Serious Gord

      Excellent observation.

      The only way this changes is if the rules change to make the game far more offense-minded. Dramatically reducing the size of goalie equipment – IOW return it to where it was in the early seventies – with just the bare minimum required for safety – would go a long way to doing that.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Shipcanning all the systems play would help matters as well. Tilting the ice surface to deter offense is paramount.

        It’s easier to teach marginal players to prevent goals than it is to have them to score them. Talent and creativity don’t rule todays game anymore. It’s which team executes their system better each evening that is up for grabs.

  • The Last Big Bear

    How about another comparable?

    He just finished his 23 year old season.

    He had the 2nd highest Corsi Rel of any defenceman in the entire NHL.

    7th in the NHL for even-strength TOI (19:39/gm)

    He scored 31 points.

    $2.1m RFA on a bridge contract.

    I’ll give you a clue… He plays for the team that you all hate…

    • Zarny

      TJ Brodie isn’t a comparable.

      Brodie signed his bridge before everything you mentioned. Prior to last season his resume included a mere 28 pts in 104 games (0.269 pt/gm).

      That offensive production is slightly over half of Schutlz’ to date (0.491 pt/gm).

      His Corsi Rel was also highly skewed by playing Gio who had the highest Corsi Rel in the league.

      Had Brodie signed after last season he would have got a whole lot more than $2.1M/yr.

      • The Last Big Bear

        TJ Brodie signed that bridge deal coming out of a season where he logged over 19 mins/game.

        And he was 8th among NHL defencemen in Corsi Rel, and his main linemate was Dennis Wideman.

        He also finished as a plus player despite playing on the Calgary Flames.

        Brodie was putting up fewer points than Schultz when he signed, but he was also able to do his job and actually play defence, something Schultz is still struggling to do.

        • Zarny

          In 2012-13, Brodie average 20:13 min/gm to be exact. Last year Schultz averaged 23:20 min/gm.

          He was also 12th among NHL defensemen in Corsi Rel according to Extraskater with +4.5% on a team that was ranked 22nd overall. Schultz last year was -2.6% on a team ranked 28th.

          Brodie finished -9 in 2012-13 so no he was not a plus player.

          Fewer points? Yes, like half the number of points and he was able to do his job and actually play defense while on the ice with considerably better D partners than Schultz.

          Considerably better…especially last year.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Ah yes, I was looking at his previous (2011-12) season when I said he was a plus player, my bad.

            My point was that Brodie was not just some schlub when he signed his bridge contract. He was playing big minutes in the NHL at a very young age, and was performing very well during those minutes.

            Schulz is more proven than Brodie was when he signed his bridge deal, but that’s not necessarily a good thing given that his already questionable defence hasn’t really improved by leaps and bounds.

            You are right, of course, that points will get you paid in the NHL, regardless of anything else.

            I was simply pointing out that $4m+ long-term deals are not the only comparables for a young big-minutes defenceman. Players who are just as good or better than Schultz have signed bridge deals recently.

            This is not always a good thing for the team, of course…

            Edit – As I understand it, Corsi stats are not admissable in Arbitration cases, and I think they are under-weighted in contract negotiations in general.

            Only box stats and situational TOI are admissable for abitration.

          • Zarny

            Yeah, as I understand it Corsi stats (advanced stats) aren’t admissible in Arbitration cases and I would think are under-weighted in contract negotiations still given some hockey people still think it’s hocus pocus.

            Which was really my point. I certainly wasn’t trying to suggest Brodie was a scrub when he signed his bridge; he simply hadn’t produced offensively which (again right or wrong) counts in the NHL so I don’t think he’d be a good comparable for Schultz.

            Like I said, I think whether Schultz signs a bridge or a longer term contract isn’t too concerning for Edmonton. Maybe you pay a bit more after a bridge if his defense improves. Maybe he is a bit overpaid at $4M if his defense doesn’t.

            I don’t see a bridge biting Edm like Subban in Mtl and I don’t see a longer term deal at $4M being an anchor if they go that route.

            I do think inflation is something to consider though. Until star players take max contracts the mushy middle will continue to get overpaid. If the cap spikes a lot $4M for Schultz in 2-3 years might look like a bargain.

      • The Soup Fascist

        Good guess. What threw me off was that I thought LBB was referring to an ACTUAL, you know …. NHL team instead of the Flames.

        (I know – glass houses, rocks, blah, blah, blah). Just because the Oil have stunk for the last 8 years doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun.