Oilers, Schultz agree on 1-year contract: GM says 'Justin has Norris Trophy potential'

Aug 29, 12:36 PM

The Edmonton Oilers and defenseman Justin Schultz were always confident a deal would get done prior to training camp, and after the announcement that a one-year pact worth a reported $3.675 million had been reached, the 24-year-old declared, "it worked out well."

At the same time, the term of the contract suggests there's work yet to be done before a long-term agreement can be signed.

“I think we are both pretty happy in getting it done, having this drag on," Schultz told 'Inside The Oilers'. "I’m happy with the contract. I obviously have to prove myself more to get a longer term. Hopefully I have a good year this year, the team does better and we’ll get it done."

Schultz recorded 19 goals and 41 assists in 122 career games with the Oilers, with 27 points coming on the man advantage. Question marks remain in regards to the defensive aspect of his game, an area in which he sees improvement dating back to last season.

“Defensively, the start of the year was a little rough for me and the team but I thought as the year went on everything improved,” Schultz said. "Our team was improving. We obviously didn’t finish the way we wanted to but it was a good finish for us and hopefully we build off of that and start strong this year."

General manager Craig Mactavish seems to believe the sky is the limit when it comes to Schultz:

Add it all up, and 2014-15 is set to be a defining year for both Schultz and the Oilers as a whole.

Aug 30, 3:01 PM

Oilers' Schultz: 'I do want to win the Norris Trophy one day ... but it’s early'

Aug 30, 3:01 PM

After signing Justin Schultz to a one-year deal worth $3.675 million on Friday, general manager Craig MacTavish pumped the 24-year-old's tires in a big way, saying he, "has Norris Trophy potential."

Schultz appeared flattered by the praise, but was quick to tap the brakes on talk of being named the NHL's best defenseman anytime soon.

“I like that he (MacTavish) thinks so highly of me, and I do want to win the Norris Trophy one day ... but it’s early, and I still have a lot to prove,” Schultz says to the Edmonton Journal.

MacTavish's comment was curious in light of the fact the two sides couldn't agree to a long-term contract; the GM added, "We wanted a bit more information on Justin." Still that didn't stop MacTavish from continuing to sing Schultz's praises, raising hopes and expectations in the process.

Justin gave us one of the best moments for our franchise in the last number of years when he chose us (free-agent) and it highlighted the potential of our group and Justin being a key part of our core group. We all agree on the untapped, incredible potential of this player. When he went to the American Hockey League during the lockout season and led the defence in scoring in his first year ... that doesn’t happen to average or good players. Those things happen to great players. I feel Justin will be a great Oiler.

Schultz's situation is a bit of a double-edged sword; while his numbers don't suggest he's close to being an elite-level player at his position, the fact the Oilers as a whole continue to underachieve casts shade on his game.

The potential is there on both fronts; now it's a matter of actualization.

Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Sergei Belski

Aug 29, 11:00 AM

Oilers agree to terms with Justin Schultz on 1-year contract worth a reported $3.675M

Aug 29, 11:00 AM

One day after Justin Schultz told reporters a new contract with the Oilers was to be signed "pretty soon," the Edmonton defenseman has indeed re-signed for one more year.

The deal is believed to be worth $3.675 million.

Schultz, signed as a free agent prior to the 2013 NHL season, scored 11 goals and added 22 assists while averaging more than 23 minutes of ice time per game. 

More than one-third of his points came on the power play (12), and he ranked 102 among all NHL defensemen with 138 even-strength shot attempts (as per Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com).

Aug 28, 4:39 PM

Oilers' Justin Schultz on contract talks: 'We should have something done pretty soon'

Aug 28, 4:39 PM

With the opening of NHL training camps less than three weeks away, Edmonton Oilers defenseman and restricted free agent Justin Schultz remains unsigned.

A supremely talented and productive offensive defenseman, Schultz has been, arguably, one of the worst regular NHL blue-liners in his own end during his first two NHL seasons. That sharp divide between Schultz's talent level and his two-way performance likely explains why the two sides have taken all summer to agree to the terms of a new deal.

Schultz, who hails from West Kelowna, B.C., is currently skating with other players at the Kelowna Rockets facility in preparation for training camp. In a conversation with Rockets play-by-play broadcaster Regan Bartel on Thursday, Schultz suggested that he's very close to agreeing to a new deal with the team he selected as an unrestricted free agent two years ago:

Though a deal is apparently imminent, Schultz emphasized that he wouldn't be willing to attend training camp without a new contract in place. "It isn't something anyone wants to do," Schultz told Bartel. "I don't see me going to camp without a deal."

It's notable that the Oilers, an organization that was quick to lock up Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins before the expiry of their respective entry-level deals, have been so reluctant to commit to Schultz. It's particularly interesting when one considers that Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish sang Schultz's praises at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, describing his performance as "outstanding," and opining that "his upside is limitless."

"I have a lot of confidence, and would have the confidence to extend Justin on a long-term deal," MacTavish said at the time.

So far this summer, the club's inaction hasn't matched that talk.

Aug 26, 5:14 PM

Oilers' Howson on contract negotiations with Justin Schultz: 'Stalemate is too strong a word'

Aug 26, 5:14 PM

In the summer of 2012, the Edmonton Oilers won the league-wide sweepstakes for Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Justin Schultz - an Anaheim Ducks draft pick who utilized article 8.6(c) of the 2005 NHL collective bargaining agreement to become an unrestricted free agent.

Though the bidding for Schultz was fierce and, he dominated the AHL to an unprecedented degree with Oklahoma City Barons during the 2012-13 NHL lockout, the 24-year-old defender has had some issues adjusting to the rigors of the NHL game. In particular, he has struggled enormously in his own end of the rink.

Now a restricted free agent, Schultz's continued permissiveness on defense make his value difficult to peg. On the one hand, he's excelled offensively and has managed 19 goals and 60 total points in 122 NHL games over his first two NHL seasons.

On the other, Schultz is an adventure in his own end of the rink. That actually might be putting it to mildly. Of the 174 NHL defenseman who have logged at least 1000 even-strength minutes over the past two seasons, only three players have allowed shots against at a higher rate when they're on the ice at five-on-five.

Further, all three of the defenders who have allowed shots against at a higher rate than Schultz played for the Maple Leafs over the previous two seasons. Once one accounts for team effects, the argument that Schultz has been the league's single most permissive defender in his first two seasons in the NHL becomes compelling.

Presumably Schultz's issues on defense are holding up negotiations between his camp and the Oilers, an organization that has rarely waited this long to lock up a young, core piece. Despite Schultz's unsigned status, the team is still optimistic that a deal will get done in advance of training camp.

"Stalemate is too strong a word…both parties are listening. We’re very optimistic something will get done (before camp starts)" said Oilers senior vice-president of hockey operations Scott Howson in a conversation with the Edmonton Journal.

"Justin is progressing," continued Howson. "He has the potential to get over 40 points (a season)."

Of that there's no doubt, it's really Schultz's ineffectiveness away from the puck that's at issue. For that reason alone, the Oilers are probably wise to be leery of handing Schultz a Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins type long-term contract.

[Stats in this piece courtesy stats.hockeyanalysis.com]