Any general manager needs to have some idea of the way forward. In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, the path is obvious in some cases. Connor McDavid, for example, should be a fixture for as long as he’s healthy and willing to play in Edmonton. On the other end of the scale, expensive stopgaps like Teddy Purcell and Nikita Nikitin are unlikely to get another contract with the Oilers.
That brings us to Justin Schultz, the undeniably talented and exceedingly controversial defenceman who could plausibly be with Edmonton for another 10 years or be gone within the next 10 months. Armchair general managers, your question this week is this: What would your plan for Schultz look like?
Sign him to a long-term deal while his value is low, like Edmonton should have done this summer. We all saw what this guy did to the AHL in 2012-13. We all saw how well he played right out of the box for Ralph Krueger that same year. He’s a young right-shooting, puck-moving defenceman on a team that lacks exactly that guy. He’s going to rebound under Todd McLellan and cost more next summer, so the play here is to lock him up now while the failures of recent Oilers teams obscure his true value.
Sign him to a shorter-term contract extension this summer. Schultz was overhyped entering the league, but he can still help. He’s not a franchise cornerstone, but he’s a useful young defenceman and he’s not going to be all that easy to replace in the summer. Sign him for between one and three years, and then see what happens.
Always in motion is the future. Look, there are radicals on both sides of this debate, but the truth is we just don’t know. Yeah, Schultz has his issues, but a lot of them might have to do with playing monster minutes for a terrible team, and everyone knows offensive defencemen look bad when the power play isn’t clicking. On the other hand, maybe it’ll turn out that the team gets better and those issues are still there. Let’s circle back to this conversation in January.
Trade him, but down the road. Schultz’s negatives are such that he’s never likely to be a key player on a successful Oilers team. With that said, there’s no rush to move him, and he’s going to have more value at the deadline or in the summer after playing on McLellan’s power play all year. Hold for now, and cash him in when his value is high; this is a classic pump-and-dump situation.
Trade him, as fast as possible, if at all possible. He’s never going to be worth his contract and other teams aren’t going to be stupid enough to pay for him down the road; that’s just the way it is. Shop him now to teams like Boston and Columbus that need defencemen, and offer to retain half his contract. Get back some futures in exchange and be happy that the defensive logjam has been cleared up a little. If he isn’t moveable, be prepared to walk away from his contract next summer.
I’m skeptical that Schultz’s issues as a two-way player are ever going to be resolved. With that said, there’s no upside to moving him now that Cody Franson has signed elsewhere, and McLellan’s staff has always had great success building a power play, so I’d say the rough plan should be to hang on to him for the time being and then shop him at the deadline. Defencemen always seem to have value in February, and he should at least rebound enough on the man advantage to interest somebody.
As always, though, the final word on What Would You Do Wednesday goes to our readers. In Peter Chiarelli’s shoes what would your plan for Schultz look like?