The Edmonton Oilers and Justin Schultz have managed to avoid arbitration, with the two parties agreeing to a one-year deal on Wednesday.
EDM and Schultz settle one year at $3.9M
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 15, 2015
This is not a surprising development. Despite the Oilers’ decision to elect for arbitration, there was no discernible benefit for the team in going through the process if it could be avoided. Schultz was guaranteed equivalent or superior money to the $3.675 million he made in 2014-15 and so there was no real upside to engaging in an adversarial arbitration hearing when the money was going to be within a very small window anyway.
$3.9 million represents an overpay for Schultz, but it was not an overpay of Peter Chiarelli’s making. When then-general manager Craig MacTavish offered Schultz a one-year contract last summer, he guaranteed that this year’s contract decision was going to be ugly.
If Schultz has a poor year, Edmonton will have to decide between qualifying him at an ugly number based on his $3.675 million contract and letting him go for nothing (there is a third, rarely-used option – club-elected arbitration in the hopes of knocking back his salary). In other words, Schultz is guaranteed the choice of significant money or free agency even if he has a garbage year; that’s a nice place to be.
That’s the situation Chiarelli found himself in this summer. Schultz was going to get paid because of the decisions MacTavish made last summer and so he was.
The upside is that this deal now opens up a second buyout window for the Oilers. From article 13 of the NHL Standard Player Contract:
For Clubs who have Club or Player elected Salary Arbitration filings pursuant to Article 12, within the forty-eight (48) hour period beginning on the third day following the later of: (i) the Club’s receipt of its last salary arbitration award; or (ii) settlement of its last case (provided such award was received or such settlement occurred prior to 7:00 p.m. New York time; awards or settlements that occurred or were received at or after 7:00 p.m. New York time will be deemed to have occurred or received the following business day for purposes of this provision).
Had the Oilers elected for clawback arbitration with Schultz, they would not have opened up a second buyout window, but because of the mechanism they chose this window will open for 48 hours starting on Saturday (Full details here).
That’s another possible benefit to getting Schultz’s contract settled early – it means the Oilers will head into their buyout window while some significant free agents are still out there, potentially affording them the option of adding one or more of those players with the cleared cap space.
This deal may not look so bad next year if Schultz can be a useful member of a productive power play. New head coach Todd McLellan has a track record of making the man advantage work and Schultz is likely to be his best blue line option. It’s still paying for potential, and thus it’s still a bad contract, but there should certainly be room for Schultz to grow after a disastrous 2014-15.
Still, this deal would seem to be less about Schultz and more about the need to clear out some bodies. Nikita Nikitin is the obvious candidate for a buyout, but he isn’t the only one. Andrew Ference is certainly worth considering and some would argue that Teddy Purcell should be in the conversation as well. As far as I can tell from reading the CBA (as always I am not a lawyer) the Oilers can buyout more than one player, but are limited to three buyouts outside the regular period over the life of the CBA.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend in Edmonton.