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

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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.

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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.

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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


  • DieHard

    Please everyone do not judge Justin Schultz too harshly because his agent is asking for the moon.

    Firstly, if he did not ask for the moon he would be an unemployed agent.

    Secondly, JS probably does not manage him or how he negotiates so labelling him as the problem or “whipping boy”, is unjustified.

    Thirdly, JS likes to fly under the radar, this is evident by his demeanour and the way he handles himself…….I doubt his ego is the problem in negotiations.

    Fourthly, when have we had a good defenceman that wanted to play here………post Pronger that is?

    Lastly, JS was carrying a large load last year and got played beyond his experience and abilities,………this year will be totally different with the additions of Nakitin and Fayne. Expect his to have a great year.

    Mac T will have to overpay to get this guy signed now………but if you look at the Nuge, Hall and Ebs now, all three of those contracts are now considered value contracts……..JS will be no different!

  • Spoils

    Not related but why not move purcell for anisimov. They both have the ability to be offensive and defensive. They have an abundance of centermen and us wingers. If a prospect or pick needs to be added then get it done. None of the fanbase has any emotional connection to him so shipping him out would be no problem. Bring back MPS for a 2nd round pick and a prospect. Sign Schultz at $4mil for 5 years:

    Hall-Nuge-Ebs

    Pouliot-Anisimov-Yak

    Perron-Draisaitl- Paajarvi

    Hendricks-Gordon-Gazdic/Pitlick

    Nikitin-Schultz

    Marincin-Fayne

    Ference-Petry

    Aulie/Klef

    Scrivens-Fasth

  • Craig1981

    So they overpay on a castaway in Nikitn who has zero relationship with the Oil yet we hesitate to sign the one guy who actually chose to play for us and is well regarded?

    I realize defensively Shultz needs work but he was doing his best to chip in offensively and he played on a weak team. He was a guy you could see gave effort most nights.

    I’m hoping on a long term, 6 plus or something because I don’t want the same crap going down in a year or two again.

    If he doesn’t perform, trade him or suck it up. (See Gagner)

  • Chongler

    Nothing wrong with trying to max out what you can get…why not compare yourself to the richest contract in NHL Defenseman history (or his prior contract to be clear)…I once asked my boss for $1M…doesn’t mean I got it, but it was worth the ask. Oiler fans are blue collar people I guess – can’t handle the business side of this sport.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    This is just Kevin Lowe being Kevin Lowe again. If you don’t think he’s involved in this powwow, then you’re out to lunch. He loves these whose balls are bigger tussles.

    The Oilers aren’t that far away from being a non playoff team up against the cap. After the deals they handed out to a couple outsiders this summer, 4.5 is in line with those deals. This is a rather odd time to suddenly try and be fiscally responsible though. Giving a career backup Dubnyk 3.75 for 2 yrs has to reveal there is trouble at the top. This has Lowes same old tactics written all over it. Justins agent should chop him off at the knees and remind Kevin it was Wayne and Mark who put those 6 rings on his fingers.

  • Sorensenator

    Four years ago Subban had 38 points in 77 games and the year after 36 pts in 81 games. 0.47 PPG average

    PK got his bridge deal based on these two seasons.

    He then destroyed it with 38 pts in only 42 games and won the Norris the first year in his Bridge deal.

    Justin Schultz has gone 27 pts in 48 games and 33 pts in 74 games in his first two seasons. 0.49 PPG average.

    I don’t expect Schultz to score at a point per game pace this year however his numbers suggest he was on very similar ground to Subban in terms of offence.

    That being said, we know PK to be the more physical of the two but he also had major defensive holes in his game and is still working on it.

    Obviously a 6 million dollar contract is not warranted, however the slap in the face bridge deal Subban got isn’t either.

    The middle ground is Gardiner money, he will have to accept it or he won’t play.

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Could you explain how the Habs were negatively impacted buy the “slap on the face” bridge contract? They now have Subban locked up for his most productive years and he has nothing but good things to say about the management.

      • Zarny

        How are the Habs negatively impacted by Subban’s bridge deal?

        Simple math.

        Subban was asking for 5 yr @ $5.5M/yr according to reports. He signed for 2 yr @ $2.875M/yr so initially the Habs saved $5.25M over the last 2 years.

        However, they now give $3.5M/yr back for the next 3 years = $10.5M. Over the course of 5 years that initial $5.25M savings turns into a $4.75M loss compared to what they could have had Subban signed for. And I doubt they are saving a dime paying Subban $9M this year compared to what he would have signed for in 3 years.

        That $4.75M loss equates to $1.583M per year; or the equivalent of signing Mike Weaver compared to say Mark Fayne.

        Mtl gambled with the bridge and lost big time. The only interesting caveat for the Habs is Subban’s contract does not include a NMC.

        • vetinari

          I understand the risk reward of bridge or not to bridge. My point was the referring to the bridge as “a slap in the face” comment. That Subban was insulted by only getting a bridge and that he has hard feeling towards the Habs. I think players understand the business side of the NHL.

  • Serious Gord

    This is upsetting a couple of ways:

    1. While I understand the natural process of bargaining requires a higher ask than what will be settled for, the gap between the two is very unsettling. Are they really that out to lunch? Or are they taking advantage of the oilers vulnerability – or at least what they perceive to be vulnerability. either way it is a recipe for harmed relations – maybe permanent – not just with management, but now that it is public, with fans as well. And the latter group has a very long memory for these sorts of things.

    2. Now that this is public his trade value has plummeted. Prior to today mact could have traded him rather than get bent over.

    Which makes me wonder about the motivation behind the leaking of this info…

    • Zarny

      1. The gap appears to be $1M or less. You are unsettled by that? I guess it’s a good thing you aren’t a Blue Jackets fan where Johansen and CBJ are ~ $3M apart.

      2. Sure. Just like Johansen’s value has plummeted because of his very public negotiations with CBJ or how Col would have gotten nothing for O’Reilly because their impasse was public.

      • Zarny

        How about trading those two than?

        Johansen for Schultz plus, maybe 2016 1st & 3? What do you think it would take?

        Is Johansen worth the money hes asking?

        I would rather have an emerging 2c than an emerging D with our prospects.

  • Spoils

    my gut says Schultz is going to get A LOT better at D as he matures. his O will get better too.

    Our D core is going to be D by committee – Marincin, Nurse, Klefbom, Petry (if we keep him) – nobody is top notch, but taken together with our #1s up front, we have a contender.

    Yes he has underwhelmed, and yes there is a risk it continues, but Schultz is core to the plan.

    I also bet the cap goes up.

    I’d be willing to take a bit of a flyer/overpay on Schultz.

    my gut says he gets better.

  • Randaman

    I think some of us saw this coming two years ago when he pulled the rug out from under the Ducks. I say trade him and be done with it. This will happen again after a bridge contract too