Canucks Army Free Agent Profiles: Justin Schultz

Justin Schultz will be a restricted free agent on the other side of this contract, but likely not for long. For the Pittsburgh Penguins to retain Schultz’s rights, it will cost $3.9-million in the form of a qualifying offer. That’s about $4-million that the Penguins don’t have at their disposal. Not for Schultz, anyways.

That means Schultz, who turns 26 in July, is en route to his second taste of unrestricted free agency at the end of his fourth NHL season. I get the sense there’s going to be considerably less interest this time around.

This isn’t the end of the line for Schultz, but he’s getting closer. Schultz came to the NHL as advertised — a high-risk, high-reward defender that struggles from the defensive zone. The hope was that NHL coaching would be enough to iron those wrinkles from his game, but four seasons later and progress has been stagnant.

Now another team has to decide if they have the coach to right the course. Will that team be the Vancouver Canucks?

HERO Chart:

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Career Statistics:

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(Source: www.tsn.ca)

The Fit:

The Canucks have a glut of defencemen and most of them fit the description as inexperienced. Schultz adds to the one problem, without necessarily addressing the other. That makes it an awkward fit on the surface. There’s not a lot of harmony underneath these appearances, either. Consider for a second that the Canucks surrendered the second most scoring chances in the league last season and adding one of the league’s most permissive defenders would be a curious move.

Schultz isn’t without his strengths, though. He can skate, complete the first pass and is every bit the offensive ace he projected to be out of college. If the Canucks can carve out an appropriate role that highlights those strengths without exposing his deficiencies, they might consider the investment a worthwhile exercise. You can do a lot worse on your third pairing, for a power play specialist.

The Scouting Report:

What Schultz is at this point is well known — a power play specialist that struggles to keep the puck out of his net at even strength. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll always be that defenceman, but it’s more than likely at this stage. So the question becomes whether the offensive and transitional contributions will be enough to make him a net positive at even strength in spite of this.

So far it’s hard to say whether that has been the case, as the Oilers have been wholly porous with Schultz on the ice at even strength for the entirety of his career. Whether by scoring chances, goals, Fenwick or however else you might judge a defenceman, Schultz has struggled immensely.

Some of that might be every bit role related as it is talent. The Oilers didn’t exactly ease Schultz into the professional ranks. They placed Schultz in high leverage situations, against some of the opposition’s best and watched him get feasted upon night after fruitless night. Further to that point, the Oilers had three coaches over the course of Schultz’s four seasons in Edmonton. Young players need continuity, among other things, to find their footing at the professional level.

Conclusion

I would be intrigued by the idea of Schultz as a reclamation project on a third pair for almost any other team than the Canucks. They don’t have the room on their blue line, particularly on the right side after the addition of Erik Gudbranson.

You’d like to think that Schultz, an excellent skater, might work in Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins’ system. Then you remember how the Matt Bartkowski experiment fared.

At the end of the day, it likely takes far more effort to make Schultz work in Vancouver than it’s worth. If the Canucks aim to make the playoffs next season, which they do, then they can’t afford to live with the occasional mistakes a player like Schultz is so often prone to. 



  • Dirty30

    The Canucks already have Philip Larsen for the role Schultz would play.

    I also expect Gudbranson to get a chance at the powerplay to see if his shot can be a weapon.

  • The Edmonton Oilers ruined Justin Schultz.

    They put him in a position he wasn’t ready for. Schultz is a non-physical defender with skill. Oilers should have paired him with tough shut-down guy, similar to what Vancouver is doing with Hutton and Gudbranson. Instead they left him to fend for himself, without protection. Schultz got used and abused at every turn and finally self preservation set in and rather than make the play, he gives up the puck instead of getting hit.

  • Dirty30

    Pass.

    He should have signed with the Canucks while he still had potential.

    After four years of futility and a ridiculous contract he just doesn’t fit with the Canucks now.

  • Dirty30

    the canucks need to use the ufa process to land a steady reliable forward who can log at least some top 6 minutes and can teach the kids by example.

    schultz needs to land on a well coached veteran team to learn how to play defence.

    no fit here.

  • sh1t4brains

    One of the strengths of Schultz’ game is his ability to recover pucks in the AZ. This is actually a hallmark of the Canucks’ use of active D, and has been from the Gillis/AV era, through Torts, and into Desjardins’ coaching stint here. That he is clearly talented goes without saying. So, in terms of his strengths lining up with both our team deployment & tactics, he is a fit. He is also young, and can be had for a reasonable sum. This also is a plus on the ledger.

    On the minus side, he still faces a steep learning curve on the defensive side of the game, although he is doing better in Pittsburgh than he did in Edmonton. A well-structured game with a sound, experienced partner on the 3rd pairing might suit him.

    So, on the plus/minus ledger, there are more pluses than minuses, which would lead you to expect an attempt to sign him.

    However, what is often not discussed in hockey rosterbating is the opportunity cost of adding Schultz. What would be the effects up & down the roster of adding him?

    Well, for a start, we don’t have a suitable mentor/partner for him, unless we commit at the very least $4 mill to re-sign Hamhuis. It would probably mean bumping Groot down to the minors; and Tryamkin is on record stating that he thinks he can develop his game better in Russia than in Utica. The trickle-down effect of adding Schultz would also have us exposing Pedan & Larsen (probably) to waivers.

    Frankly, I’d love to have him.

    But I’m pretty darned sure that Benning is not willing to risk the loss of Tryamkin or Pedan (or Larsen?), and ‘adding’ a declining vet a t premium cost for at least 3-4 years, for the gamble that Schultz can learn to defend in a year or two. From what I’ve seen of Benning’s process & decisions to date, the opportunity cost of adding Schultz is just too high for him to pony up to the table.

    I don’t see us adding him in July.

  • Steampuck

    Hutton will be given the opportunity to develop his offensive game, given that Gudbranson will be his partner. And Canucks need to assess several other D – Tryamkin, Pedan, Larsen – at this point there is no roster space or role on the team for Schultz.

  • Steampuck

    “The Canucks have a glut of defencemen and most of them fit the description as inexperienced. Schultz adds to the one problem, without necessarily addressing the other. That makes it an awkward fit on the surface. There’s not a lot of harmony underneath these appearances, either. Consider for a second that the Canucks surrendered the second most scoring chances in the league last season and adding one of the league’s most permissive defenders would be a curious move.”

    This could be the single worst paragraph in CA history. For the love of everything good and holy: proofread, edit, try. Think of the children!!

    Also: no on Schultz. Some of these profiles are unlikely and implausible and undesirable, but you could make some kind of case. Schultz? No, nay, never.

  • Dirty30

    “If the Canucks aim to make the playoffs next season, which they do, then they can’t afford to live with the occasional mistakes a player like Schultz is so often prone to.”

    To which a player like Schultz is so often prone…

    We accept that you have a limited hockey mind.

    But at least make up for it in another way…

    • Steampuck

      Honestly NM00, every time I come on this site it’s like watching one guy ( you ) hopelessly trying to convince people who think red is green.

      It’s like watching a guy in an insane asylum trying to convince patients of how retarded they are, year after year. It gets pretty stale and fake after a while. stale and fake.

    • Dirty30

      Didn’t you retire the persona? What was it that couldn’t keep you away? Was it delusion?

      No on Schultz. While a quantity of defensemen doesn’t make up for quality (we really only have four good d on the books for next year with Tryamkin, Pedan and Larsen unproven and the jury still out on Sbisa) Schultz doesn’t really add much to the mix.

      • Steampuck

        If I retired the persona, what would you have left to say…

        As it stands, you merely polish off my words with political correctness to cover up your own limitations as a thinker.

        You are not intelligent enough to influence NM00…

        And everyone who studies history knows it.

        You could leave forever, Sean could take your place and the discourse would not change one inch…

  • He’s done well in Pittsburgh with proper deployment and a sheltered role, maybe just what he needs to regain confidence and work on the defensive side of his game.

    I don’t see a fit here, we have bigger fish to fry.

  • Dirty30

    I just think the Oilers Sam Gagne/Devon Dubnyk’d the kid. Just ruined him. How many coaches did he have in his time in Edmonton? Edmonton forwards are really allergic to back checking. Its a real and tragic thing.

    The timing probably isn’t right, but under the right circumstances he may flourish by playing with Tanev, Gunbrandson, and Hamhuis. You may be getting a very good young d-man in the cheap here, like Philly did with Del Zotto.

  • I would go through why this is a bad move but others pretty much beat me to the punch. There really isn’t a great UFA in the FA market this season and I think Benning added what he thought he needed in a trade via Guddbranson. Also I think he plans on grabbing one via draft too. Watch them spend on most likely the wings instead and possibly try to add depth with the likes of a Mike Webber who is up for grabs over spending money on this Charlie Brown special.

    • Steampuck

      I think the biggest hang-up on any of these prospective FA signings (and you’re right: none is perfect) is that term could handcuff us from picking u up better options down the line. It’s next year and the year after when this game starts to count and matter more. But only if we’re not locked into an expensive player we can’t jilt for one who fits the emerging culture of the younger club. I don’t mind any of these guys for a couple of years, but they’re not picking up the phone for anything less than 4-7 years (depending on the player), and I’m not sure that’s savoury…

  • Whackanuck

    At one time the Canucks were alleged to be very interested in Derek Pouliot. Considering Schultz started ahead of Pouliot in the playoffs, should the Canucks be looking at Pouliot as a now much cheaper reclamation acquisition?