The Edmonton Oilers and restricted free agent Justin Schultz agreed on a 1-year, $3.675-million contact on Friday that makes him the team’s second-highest paid defenseman next season. Which probably says more about the Edmonton blue line than it does Schultz.
Going with one year is a little curious. (If two years is a bridge contract, then what’s a single season? An overpass?)
First off, Schultz is actually taking a little less than the $3.775 million he made last season, which was a combination of his entry-level contract and performance bonuses. Keep in mind that as a rookie free agent, the Oilers had to sweeten the pot a bit more than if they had drafted him. So that was the starting point for his second NHL deal with the Oil
Play hardball. “We’ll pay you $2.75 million this season. Prove you’re worth more and we’ll talk next summer.” I’m fine with that. Of course, what I think should happen and what I think will happen are distinctly different. Schultz made $925,000 in salary last season. Bonuses bumped that to $3.775 million. I can see why he wouldn’t like the sound of $2.75 million.
I think $2.75 million sounds about right. That said, the Oilers have a history of overpaying and I don’t expect that to change with Arnott and Schultz.
Indeed it didn’t.
As Jim Matheson wrote before the signing, agent Wade Arnott had that consideration when negotiating a new deal:
Arnott admits there aren’t a lot of clear comparables for Schultz, but you can almost surely put Newport’s client 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 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.
Now, the Subban comparison might have triggered your gag reflex, but the bottom line is that the Oilers aren’t sure what Schultz’s upside could end up being:
Arnott agreed both sides are trying to figure what Schultz’s “ceiling” is.He didn’t argue when suggested Schultz had the offensive chops to be a 55 to 60-point defenceman. But, he’s had average offensive stats (60 points) in his first 122 games. Subban had 74 in his first two full seasons of 158 games in Montreal. Schultz averaged .49 points a game, Subban .47. Subban’s plus/minus was way better (-1) to Schultz’s -39, but the Oilers have been bottom-feeders for years, especially exposing their back-end.
Schultz had 33 points in 74 games last season for the Oilers.
There are a few ways to read this deal, but the prevailing wisdom is that the Oilers bowed to Arnott’s demands (which is something they’re used to when it comes to Arnotts): No second year like Montreal got with Subban, and a cap hit that sets him up for another considerable bump next summer – or, perhaps, setting a high bar for a long-term deal.
To me this deal seems like the Oilers caved, that they decided that rather than risk a contract dispute that it was better to just get a deal done before the start of camp and then fight this fight again next summer with another year of data.
I'm not sure that doesn't just lead to another over payment next summer, but I'm not the General Manager so it's not up to me. And who know, maybe Schultz learns how to play defence between now and then.
Here’s Dellow’s take … aw, crap, that’s right. Still getting used to that in the Oilogosphere.