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

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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?

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.

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

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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.

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.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • He got more points than Phanuef who gets paid 7 mill, the same points as Erhoff who got a 1 year 4 mil contract (why didn’t the Oilers get that guy again?), but he got less points than oh heck Cam Fowler who just got a shiny new 4 mill per for the next ever years. If they can make him swallow a bridge deal great, otherwise pay him 4 mill for as many free agent years as possible. Cause in 2 years time, 4 mill for a defenceman who can put up 30 – 40 points (and hopefully actually defend) is going to be the mother of all bargain contracts.

    Personally I think if Petry didn’t have to take top pairing minutes and face nothing but insane competition, he’d easily be a 30 – 40 point guy. But that might be dreaming. Here’s hoping Schultz takes a big step forward this year, and if Petry does get traded, it’s either for a legit second line centre (who is this mystery person?) or for Boychuck (bigger, more points, better defender, tough and mean as rusty nails, surprisingly soft spoken, plays on the right side, has chemistry with Ferrence, but is 30).

      • camdog

        Boychuk’s 30 and a UFA after this season, they don’t have the money to keep him. Boychuk’s played a lot of tough minutes, he’s bound to lose a gear in the next couple of years. That Bruins defence could use a mid level experienced defenceman with some speed to compliment the others in the rotation. And McQuaid wouldn’t even be top 6 in Edmonton, never mind him being better than Petry.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          I should say the Bruins and Oilers are my two favorite teams, so I’m not being biased here. The Bruins could have dumped Boychuk and kept Iginla. The fact that they let Iginla walk, tells you they think highly of Boychuk.
          I hope the Oilers upgrade on D, but I don’t think it’s coming from Boston.

    • bwar

      The Oilers didn’t sign Erhoff because he didn’t want to come here. He signed with the Penguins as soon as he could. Quit trying to pin crap like not getting certain players at MacT’s feet. I’m sure the obvious FA’s that could’ve helped the team, MacT talked to, but this is Edmonton, we aren’t winning the cup in the next few years, so older guys aren’t coming here with no chance to win.

      Steve Ott told Gregor the exact same thing, that’s why he didn’t sign here either, he wants a chance to win, thus signing with the blues, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to blame MacT for that too.

      • Not pinning anything at Mac T’s feet. Though, you know, it is kind of his job to make the team better. Whether free agents think they want to come here or not. A difficult job to be sure, but that is his job.

        However, more just joking about Erhoff than anything. But since we’re on the subject I think Mac T has done a pretty decent job given the team he took over and the holes he needed to plug. Perron, Purcell, Poulliot, Scrivens, Fasth, Drasiatl, Fayne, and Nikitin, make a much better team dynamic than Magnus, Smyth, Hemsky, Gagner, Dubnyk, Labarbra, Nick Schultz, and Belov.

        That is a major upgrade in just 2 years, and made our team bigger and more experienced. I hope he gets another 2nd line centre, but if not I’m confident the team is deep enough on the wings to insulate our thin centre. As mentioned in a previous post, a top line of Perron, Nuge Purcell, followed by Hall Arco Ebs is pretty good. Or you could throw perron down on the 3rd line and do Hall Nuge Yak followed by Poulliot Draisaitl Eberle. Lots of possibilities.

        But, we’ve needed a top two centre and a big skilled centre for seemingly ever. It would be a bit stupid to think in this confrence the team is suddenly good enough to make huge strides. But maybe.

      • That’s an interesting take on the contract. I viewed it more as Erhoff got bought out and made vast sums of money, so the Pens gave him a good chunk of cash and 1 year to see if they want to sign him long term.

        Several, not all, buy out guys got that 1 year deal. And of those guys, I’m not sure it was their choice to take the one year, lets win stanley style deal. Don’t you think Richards would have rather stuck around Chicago for more than 1 year?

          • Brad Richards from NYR to Chicago after being bought out. They gave him a 1 year 2 mill with a NMC. My thought is a 34 year old who just got bought out of a long term secure contract, probably doesn’t want to have to “prove himself” to land another deal that takes him to the end of his career. Nor do I imagine, especially since he’s already won a cup, he’s going to team hop for a chance to win the cup.

            With a few players taking these one year contracts after being bought out, and not necessarily to cup contending teams, it’s a bit hard to watch the Oilers miss out. I really wanted them to grab someone for the Gordon line, since even though they are “4th line” it stands to reason they will be playing 3rd or 2nd line minutes. And those minutes are going to be tooouuuugh.

            But, with Purcell and Poulliot, instead of Hemsky, Smyth, or Jones, Eakins can employ some really dynamic line combinations depending on the team on any given night.

            For example, Purcell put up impressive numbers with Stamkos, and then good possession but not so great offense with other players. So how would a top line of Perron Nuge and Purcell look? Letting Hall and Eberle either regain chemistry with Arco, or giving Draisaitl somone to push the river with. Poulliot, Draisaitl, Eberle would be a deadly second line. Hall, Nuge, Yak on the top line. Then Perron, Arco, Purcell for the third line? Plus I think it has been correctly speculated that Yak and Draisaitl could sit and that winger handed over to the Gordon line when the team needs to hold onto a lead. Basically Eakins has a chance to spread out the talent and balance the line up with size, veteran, two way, grit, skill, speed, or load up. Not many teams have the depth to do that.

        • The way I saw it was it was good for both sides. I believe Ehrhoff is a good Dman but his value took a big dip in at least the most recent year. I think that mostly has to do with Buffalo being all sorts of terrible. A one year deal with a team like Pittsburgh helps him show his value. I think it will work wonders for his image.

          Also, before he was bought out, he had a ntc (or nmc) and I think it’s a given Edmonton wasn’t a desired location. So with that in mind it makes as much sense that as a UFA…. Edmonton is still not a desired location. Would have been great to have him but let’s face it, he had way better options. Pretty sure the Oilers explored that option though.

          • Agree on all accounts. But without being an NHL player, and maybe Struds can or has answered this already in a Monday Mailbag, it’s hard to know what motivation a UFA has to take this contract in this city or that contract in that city. I think Oiler fans believe it’s impossible to attract desired free agents to this city. But, Fayne, Nikitin, Schultz, and Gordon might say otherwise.

            Obviously the Pens are a better team, but ever since they won the cup, for one reason or another, they just can’t seem to put together a convincing playoff run. They have arguably the best player in the NHL, and one of the best players ever, flanked by arguably one of the best players in the NHL, and maybe one of the top tier players ever. And yet even with that dynamic duo, cannot seem to get it together.

            My point being, as good as they are, I don’t see the Pens as a legitimate cup contender anymore. The teams in the west are just too deep, and too big. I would even put Colorado’s chances ahead of the Pens.

            How that relates to Edmonton is this: if you’re a free agent looking around the league at a team who will contend for the cup, do you look at a team like the Pens who through a few iterations with players like Iginla, can’t seem to get over the hump. Or do you see a team like Edmonton and wonder if they might just be a top two defender, and one developed second line centre draft pick away from finally becoming a fearsome team?

            Maybe it’s the rose colored glasses, okay it’s definitely the glasses, but the Oilers are becoming almost incomparable in terms of top end talent, throughout the line up. I predict in 2-3 years time, Edmonton, Dallas, and Colorado are going to be the new power houses in the West. Maybe with San Jose depending on what they get for Thorton.

            This article is a good example of what our team is. People are up in arms that Schultz gets a 4 mill contract because a 33 point defender couldn’t defend against top pair competition, playing over 20 min a night. The kid is 24 entering only his 3rd year of the NHL, 2nd full year. Yak is in the same boat. “Trade him!” How dare a misused 19 year old only score 24 points! It’s insane! Name one other 20 year old forward with as much potential as Yak. Galchenyuk maybe? Mckinnon, Hertl, Nichuskin? It’s a small group. And that is the tip of the young core iceberg on this team. One day, it will click, and that day is going to cause the rest of the league to collectively crap their pants suits.

            Sorry for the rant. Again, I agree with all your points, not really sure I have one myself.

          • Ya I actually do agree with much of your reply to. I think Edmonton is slowly becoming a good destination, so I don’t often think “this guy won’t come here, why bother?” like I used to. But I’m pretty sure that someone in the know mentioned Edmonton was not a team Ehrhoff would go to when he was being shoped so I can’t see how that changes a couple months later. He may not be the hottest commodity but I think he’s a good one (which is why both of us would have loved the Oilers to nab him).

            As far as Pittsburgh I think people too frequently have a “win the cup or you suck” mentality. I just don’t get that. Are the Pens really that bad? I don’t think so at all. They may not be the team to beat each year, but they’re still in the mix and have plenty of good talent there.

          • Ya I see what your saying there. But, I think it’s different with the Pens. For example, San Jose still hasn’t won a cup, and in the last decade I have yet to think they are a sucky team. Same with Detroit, even though it’s been a while, they just don’t feel like a bad team. But the Pens to me feel like a gimmickey team, able to have regular season success by virtue of Letang, Crosby, Fleury, and Malkin, but unable to find the next gear in the playoffs by virtue of Letang, Crosby, Fluery, and Malkin.

            Compare the Pens to a team like Florida. To me Florida is a more complete top to bottom team. Same with NY, guys like Stepan and Brassard are not flashy, but I think they make fora better team make ups, especially in the playoffs, than Crosby and Malkin. The B’s are the same way.

            So no, I don’t think the Pens suck by any measure, but I just don’t see them as a hockey team either. I see them as Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Fluery. I don’t know, I might be just talking out of my butt here. I guess I’m saying they are to the NHL as the Russian team is to Olympic hockey: A collection of individuals rather than a team.

  • While its a longish contract, the annual cap hit (for a blueliner of any pedigree) makes it a palatable option.

    Unless either steps into an elevator shaft performance wise, these contract are not immovable, should club circumstances dictate a trade away scenario.

  • The thing that scares me the most about JW’s article (and I totally agree with him on his assessment) is that “if he’s a decent second-pairing guy the team will be okay”.

    Schultz is the closest thing to a “franchise” d-man that we have among those guaranteed to make the roster next season, and he is truly a second pairing defence man.

    That scares me.

    • Key point being “among those guaranteed to make the roster NEXT SEASON…” Enter Klefbom, Nurse, Marincin. Those three guys are going to change the face of the team by providing value contracts, and high levels of play on the back end. And once Nurse and Marincin fill into their lanky frames, my god, that is a scary left side for years.

      In my mind, and I don’t think this is wishful thinking, Nurse will be the Oilers Seabrook. Now if they could only find their Keith. Too bad they missed out on Ekblad, however with no one to replace Gagner, it’s a damn good thing they drafted Draisaitl.

  • Hemmercules

    I don’t see him signing for a penny less than 4 mil per season. Signing a contract with the Oilers is an automatic extra 500 000 to a million in most cases anyway so it could be in the 4.5 range. He also chose to come here when he had other options, I’m sure his agent will work the hell out of that angle. Mact will get it done but I’m not expecting a bargain unless its very short term.

  • Zarny

    Why do I think that Schultz agent will try and place him with Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle when it comes to determining his value?

    It sounds like he should sign for something similar to Gardiner but I think they will be squeezing the Oilers for much more than that, likewise Petry.

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      • Spiel

        Schultz’s leverage is not great. Neither was the leverage of RNH, Hall or Eberle when they signed their deals.

        I don’t see Schultz’s incentive to take less than the Hall/Eberle/RNH deal on anything that is over 4 years. That’s the team structure for its “young guns” which Schultz was sold/promised as being part of when he signed.

        I suspect the Oilers will “win” this battle, sign Schultz to a shorter contract, and start the clock to four years from now when Schultz walks away as a UFA.

  • vetinari

    I know that Schultz’s payday will be based on his comparables but I would take almost any of those other defencemen over Schultz. I have nothing against the guy and hope he sticks around for a while but he is not as developed or as rounded as some of the other guys listed and likely shouldn’t be paid for what he might turn into, at least not yet. My preference would be a 2/3 year bridge deal in the $3.5M/$3.75M range but if it was announced that he just signed for 5 years at $4M/per season, I wouldn’t be choked. Again, I just don’t want them to offer NTC or NMC’s in the deal so that if things go bust, you might be able to move him.

  • I think as much as I’m unsure about Schultz I’d do that same deal Gardiner got in a heartbeat. At worst it’s like average to slightly below average value for what he brings. At best, it’ll be like Hemsky’s first long deal he got that was fantastic value. So Ya, I’d take that small risk. It will be overpriced right now but should correct itself within a couple years at most.

    My only issue is more with fans. Oilers fans don’t see future when it comes to salary… They see now. So it will be tough to live up to.

    • that’s a good point and i agree with you. i think i’d take all of the comparables before schultz but what skews the number is the time, salary cap goes up, salaries go up. i love toews and kane but are they worth 2M more than Sid, no but they signed this year. the gardiner comparison is probably the most accurate and does lay out what schultz is worth today and i think most fans would be fine at this price