When the Edmonton Oilers signed Justin Schultz, it was hard to remember a signing with more fanfare than this crown jewel in the Oilers rebuild. Every team wanted him, and every team made their pitch. To the delight of Edmonton , he chose our fair village and gave fans a player to gloat about–“Hey, look, see! Some free agents come here!’.
Most prognosticators predicted he would go home to B.C. for his career, and Vancouver Canuck fans were not pleased. More so, however, were Anaheim Ducks fans. Of course, Schultz was drafted by the Ducks. But, he spent his early years in college hockey, opting not to join the Ducks organization. He’s still booed there when the team visits.
That’s all ancient history now, though. Schultz is about to embark on his second full season with the Oilers, third all told. He is at that sensitive stage where you either bust out or plateau. Management hopes its the latter. Schultz is certainly an excellent offensive defenseman. He has a good pass, jumps up in the play, and appears to be developing good chemistry with the core.
Dallas Eakins and company are looking for a better game from him in the defensive zone, however. Schultz tends to fight for puck possession in his own zone, which has led to poor Corsi numbers. Craig MacTavish, Oilers GM, has spoken a lot this summer about how much possession numbers meant for the new additions to the roster, so this is clearly a concern.
Given Schultz’s skill offensively at such a young age, the Oilers will give him some time to develop further. In some ways, the player is still adjusting to the rigors of a full NHL season, having played short, 40+ game seasons in college. Defensemen always take longer to gather their tool set and Schultz is no different.
Because he’s no Erik Karlsson, though, his contract negotiations are laboring slightly. In a recent article in the Edmonton Journal, David Staples wrote:
Schultz was more consistent in his second season, but he was also consistently weak on defence. On the attack, however, he moved the puck better than any other Oilers d-man. He made some pass, shot, hit or screen to contribute to 54 goals, fifth best on the team after Hall, 88, Eberle, 81, Nugent-Hopkins, 62, and David Perron, 58. Next best after Schultz in this category were Sam Gagner, 43, Jeff Petry, 34, Ales Hemsky, 33, Ryan Smyth, 32, and Nail Yakupov, 30.
In other words, Schultz is learning his two-way game along with all of the other young talent he is surrounded by. Oilers fans want management to offer a P.K. Subban style, “something to prove” bridge contract for Schultz. Staples speculated 4.5 to 5 per year, reasonable considering Nikita Nikitin‘s contract, but i see the player signing for a million less.
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