As the summer drags on, Justin Schultz’s status as a restricted free agent has become increasingly conspicuous. All of the Oilers’ other in-house business seems to be done, leaving Schultz as the last item on the internal to-do list.
Is a one-year deal the way to resolve the situation?
In the opening portion of Monday’s show, Bob Stauffer floated the idea of a one-year contract for Schultz:
Justin Schultz: don’t be alarmed, this is an easily rectifiable situation on a short-term bridge deal. Either one – and at this stage right now maybe a one-year deal might make the most sense – or possibly a two-year deal. I do think that Craig MacTavish, the Oilers general manager and his staff, were probably willing to investigate going longer, but I’m getting a sense that maybe Don Meehan’s group thinks ‘Hey, let’s do a short-term thing and see where Justin Schultz is at.’
He further cautioned that an impasse in negotiations is not necessarily reflective of a worsening relationship between team and player.
This is not a situation like what’s going on in Columbus, where there’s been virtually no discussion with Ryan Johansen’s camp and the Columbus Blue Jackets. I think the Oilers easily can get a one-year deal done on Justin. My guess is that Newport Sports would bet that the Oilers would make some form of improvement and that Justin Schultz’s numbers correspondingly would improve as a result and that would put them in a better bargaining position carrying forward.
A Way Out
It’s not hard to come up with a pretty decent list of reasons why this negotiation would be complex.
First, Schultz is coming off a bonus-laden rookie contract; he’s not going to be thrilled with taking a pay reduction. Second, while he’s still struggling defensively he’s a guy with significant offensive ability – and even on the blue line, players with points tend to get paid. Third, he entered the organization in a unique way (unrestricted free agency at a very young age) and now has minimal leverage. Finally, he’s only played 122 NHL games; a season and a half.
Put it all together and Schultz’s camp has significant pressure not to take a long-term deal at a low-dollar figure while the Oilers have minimal incentive to send a bunch of money his way.
Bridge deals are often used to solve these kind of logjams. One year from now, Schultz should be sitting around 200 NHL games and just maybe we’ll have seen a full season from him as part of a reasonably competitive blue line. If Schultz shines, Edmonton can feel better about paying him; if he struggles he should be amenable to a lower-end deal.
One year – presumably at a number that starts with “2” – just might be the best solution for both parties.
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