Justin Schultz: No Wonder the Contract Isn’t Done

Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz’s contract negotiations have been kept pretty quiet, but the Journal’s Jim Matheson changed that somewhat with an interesting piece on Wednesday.

Almost Certainly Asking for the Moon

$Texas

Matheson seems to take exceptional care with his phrasing, using words like “almost surely” this and “probably” that rather than making outright assertions, but if the picture he paints is accurate than Schultz and agent Wade Arnott have an unrealistic view of just how good the defenceman actually is at this point in time.

Consider, for instance, both the name used here and the dollar figure mentioned:

Arnott admits there aren’t a lot of clear comparables for Schultz, but you can almost surely put Newport’s client [P.K.] Subban in a small group of possible yardsticks for Schultz, at least in terms of a short contract for now and let’s see what happens down the road. Subban got an average of $2.875 on his two-year deal. It seems unlikely Schutlz’s (sic) people would go for that considering his cap hit (with performance bonuses) was $3.775 million last season. His salary was just $925,000 but his agent may be looking at $4 mil a year as a starting point.

Two really important points here:

  • First, Schultz isn’t close to Subban in anything except perhaps offence (though that remains to be seen); he’s not even close to what Subban was two years ago. Even then, the analytics made it clear that Subban was a difference maker for Montreal, a player who substantially boosted both out-shooting and out-scoring. Schultz routinely posts mediocre or worse figures on the analytics side.
  • Second, Schultz’s incentive-laden rookie contract came via unrestricted free agency. When all 30 NHL teams (and if it wasn’t that, it was close) are vying for the services of a player, the contract was naturally going to end up being the rookie max. He’s now a restricted free agent, which means he’s negotiating with one team.

Combine the two, and the position that Matheson suggests the Schultz camp is occupying is simply ludicrous. It requires a player less good than Subban at the same age wanting to use him as a comparable but also wanting way more money because of bonuses he hit that were negotiated while he was a UFA.

So Much for Gardiner, Apparently

Arnott probably doesn’t consider the five-year $20.25 million contract for Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner a comparable, so that’s out.

Left unstated here is why Arnott probably doesn’t consider Gardiner a comparable for Schultz. I assume it’s almost surely related to the reason that Subban is a comparable in terms of upside but not in terms of price.

We’ve previously talked about Gardiner as a comparable for Schultz in some depth. Gardiner’s offence isn’t quite as good but by every other measure he looks like a better player. Schultz’s agent may not like the money, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

What Now?

Matheson suggests that a two- or three-year deal is likely, and that makes sense given what Schultz’s camp probably thinks his UFA years are worth and the likelihood that Edmonton wants Schultz to be an RFA when this deal ends.

I thought this was particularly interesting, though:

The key will be trying to come up with a fair dollar number for Schultz, their first powerplay point guy who still factors as a top pairing D-man on this team because of his offence. Schultz would seem to have more cards to play than the Oilers because they have nobody to replace his offence in their roster of defencemen.

I’m not convinced that Schultz’s camp has the leverage suggested here, for a couple of different reasons. Schultz is without question the team’s most offensively gifted rearguard, but the blue line has been upgraded from last season and he’s arguably the team’s third-best right-side defenceman at even-strength (after Jeff Petry and Mark Fayne). Schultz likely has a higher ceiling than that duo but in the here-and-now he’s not markedly better.

That leaves his power play offence. The replacement options currently on the Oilers’ blue line (Nikita Nikitin, Martin Marincin) aren’t terribly compelling but Edmonton has some other possibilities here too.

Some are in-house. If Petry and Fayne are logging the lion’s share of minutes at evens and on the PK on the right side, bringing up Brad Hunt for third-pair work and power play time isn’t out of the question; he played top-four minutes in OKC last year and is a dynamo on the man advantage. Darnell Nurse is another interesting possibility.

There are also options in free agency. Jamie McBain is only 26 years old and has offensive ability. Derek Morris and Sami Salo are both long in the tooth but have some scoring touch – in particular Salo, whose per-minute scoring on the power play is pretty comparable to Schultz. Raphael Diaz is *this* close to being a point-per-game defenceman in Europe and has done rather well in limited power play time in North America.

Obviously, it’d be nicer if Schultz and the Oilers could just agree on a reasonable deal; it would be better for the player and the organization to have him happily contributing on Day 1 of training camp.

In the Oilers’ shoes, though, I’d rather spend $600,000 on a one-way deal for a guy like Diaz or McBain and wait for the price on Schultz to come down than pay the unproven defenceman $4.0 million per season on a bridge deal.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • BlazingSaitls

    They are negotiating and given how much dough MacT was throwing around I don’t blame him for playing a bit of hard ball. Unfortunately for him he really has no leverage and will eventually have to take whatever the Oilers give him. If he wants a 2 year deal it has to be less than 3 per season probably 2.1 is more realistic. I can’t see why you would go more than 4m per for a long term deal.

  • Reg Dunlop

    We still have a month to go before any talk of Schultz holding out can commence. However, here goes anyway: I see a big risk for Justin if he misses camp. Hungry replacement, whether Nurse or der Bomber, a better start for the team, much tighter defensively and any loss of power play pop from the point is compensated for by Nikitin and a blossoming Marincin… Oiler fans and mgmt start saying Justin who?

    Just like Coffey sitting out until being traded to the gulag in Pittsburgh, Justin may have to get used to the horse-and-buggy traffic in downtown Winnipeg OR just quietly negotiate the best deal he can and sign before camp.

    • Zarny

      I totally 100% agree with this thought. Really, Schultz is a good young player that, in my opinion, hasn’t proved himself yet to be expecting a big payday.

      I am sure a deal will get done but if it doesn’t, oh well.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Is anyone surprised by this? Ask management in Anahiem if they thought a situation like this would ever happen. Justin Schultz in a few years is Tom Gilbert 2.0 at best. 1.75m x2 or let him sit.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    He wanted to be here, [ many don’t]. You will have to pay a bit more than some of the other teams, its a fact of life, get used to it.

    Play him with a strong defensive partner and let him run. Ottawa did it with Karlsson,can work here.

    $3.75 for two years for starters.

      • Zarny

        First, you’re right Schultz is not Karlsson.

        Second, if he says no then he sits and eats a lot of popcorn.

        Hand-wringing over Schultz’ contract negotiation is silly and unwarranted.

        As Mr. Willis mentions Schultz is Edm’s most offensively gifted D but arguably 3rd on the depth chart at even strength. If Schultz were to holdout the Oilers’ PP suffers a bit and they need to plug a hole on the 3rd pair at even strength. I like Justin Schultz but the Oilers season certainly doesn’t hinge on him.

        Schultz on the other hand needs to play…badly. He has a lot of offensive talent but needs to work on his physical and defensive zone play. That requires ice time and in Edmonton he’s pretty much guaranteed that ice time.

        Sure he could jump to Europe or the KHL but he’d still be an RFA if traded and no team will pay him substantially more than the Oilers. He also has no control over where he’d end up, risks losing ice time (potentially a lot) and being further down the depth chart on many teams.

        Edmonton holds all the cards. Schultz loses out far more than Edmonton if he were to hold out which is why he won’t.

        Welcome to being an RFA in the NHL Justin Schultz. The support group meets every 2nd Wed every other month. Ryan O’Reilly, Nazim Kadri or Ryan Johansen can issue a receipt for his membership. PK Subban is the keynote speaker at this year’s convention.

      • Zarny

        No he is not Karlsson, was making a point that if you give a D man more rope, he can score a ton of points.Karlsson shoots a lot, he is always the top shooter on the team , but only averages 7.80 %. He isn’t doing this by staying home and driving guys through the boards on the backend.Neither did No.7 back in the day.

  • Zarny

    @Paulghar

    I would trade Schultz for Johansen and I suspect the Oilers would too. I think it would be a tough sell for CBJ and I don’t know if I’d pay what they would ask.

    Johansen is reportedly asking for ~ $6M and I would have the same concerns as CBJ about giving him that kind of money based on 1 good season. Of course that goes out the window if he starts next season with 25 PT in the first 30 games.

    I would rather have the more proven young player and right now that is Johansen.

  • Zarny

    Johansen is boardering on elite. He is a true #1C, and on this team, he would bump RNH down to 2C. This allows LD to get a bit more seasoning and conditioning overseas. This creats depth at Centre. Good teams have depth at centre.

    I would trade anyone not named Taylor Hall for Johansen and act like i just won the lottery afterwards.

    Whats the worst that can happen? LD fills in when an injury happens? Or maybe plays wing part-time until he adjusts to the game? Or we have a huge bargaining/trading chip?

    What do you think the successful teams in the league have?

    Instead, we start the year, once again, with one legitimate Top 9C and one 4C and nothing inbetween. NOTHING…. last year all over again.

    Yes we have some proper NHL players on Defense, but none of them are a true #1. Schultz has to be our #1 cause he QBs the PP and logs the most minutes. Probably the reason he wants to be paid like one.

  • No wonder agents make so much money. You’d have to pay me millions to be the kind of bald-faced-lying, no-sense-of-perspective, couldn’t-find-the-word-integrity-in-the-dictionary wacko that represents some of these athletes.

    You need a hell of a poker face to even mention the name Subban in a Schultz negotiation.

  • Zarny

    No wonder Shultz and his agent never chose arbitration. They would have been slaughtered. This guy has potential but last season went backward in developement. How about a 2 year bridge at ??? salary and then he can prove he is a premier “D” man. Lots of guys with potential were washed under the bridge. ala TOM POTI, etc.