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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jeff Schultz's Contract

Washington Capitals top-pairing defenseman Jeff Schultz is a restricted free agent this summer.  He made $715,000 last season.  In order to retain his services, the Capitals will have to tender him at least a 1-year qualifying offer of 110% of his 2009-10 salary, which equates to $786,500.  Judging by other young defensemen around the league, Schultz should earn quite a bit more than that, a multi-year deal in the millions.

#55 Jeff Schultz

Schultz's Background
The 24-year old Schultz is a massive 6'6, 230 pound left-shooting defenseman from Calgary, Alberta.  He was a first round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2004, 27th overall, two spots ahead of his 2009-10 defense partner, 2-time Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green.   He was the 6th defenseman taken in that draft. Never considered an offensive weapon, Schultz had respectable numbers and low penalty totals with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League where he was teammates with Karl Alzner.  He had 11 goals and 35 points and a team defensemen leading +28 in 72 games in his draft year.  He also had a showing with Canada in the 2004 World Under-18 Tournament, where he tied for the team lead with a +5.   Schultz put up 2 goals and 29 points in 2004-05 before increasing his totals in 2005-06 when he scored 7 goals and 40 points and again led the Hitmen with a +20, a season good enough to make the WHL East 2nd All-Star Team.

After posting 4 goals and 10 points in 13 WHL playoff games, he appeared in 7 AHL playoff games for the Hershey Bears, posting a goal and 4 points while helping the Bears win the 2006 Calder Cup.  This also marked his first time playing with fellow Calgarians Mike Green and Tyler Sloan.  In 2006-07, Schultz appeared in 44 AHL games, posting 2 goals and 12 points and finished 2nd among Bears defensemen with a +20.  He also made his NHL debut and played 38 games and finished his rookie season with 3 assists and a +5, second on the team only to forward Boyd Gordon.  He averaged 18:12 of ice time per game, including 3:13 on the penalty kill.  After his NHL season was over, he returned to the AHL for the playoffs and appeared in 19 Calder Cup playoff games as the Bears reached the Finals again, recording one assist.

It is important to note that Schultz is used as a defensive defenseman.  His average powerplay ice time in his 4 NHL seasons has been 12 seconds per game (50:30 total powerplay time on ice in 247 games, less than a typical month for Mike Green).  He has never scored a powerplay point. 

Schultz's Last Three Seasons
The 2007-08 season marked Schultz's first full NHL season, though it included his last AHL game.  He played 72 NHL games and recorded 5 goals and 18 points, only 28 PIM, and again leading team defensemen with a +12 rating.  His biggest impact offensively came in December when he had a stretch of 4 goals in 6 games, including a three-game goal scoring streak, when he unleashed his famous "half-slapper."  His season was marred by a shortened and ineffective playoff showing.  Schultz played 2 games with an injury and finished -2 with no points and 2 penalty minutes as the Capitals lost both games.

The next season, Schultz missed 18 games with a broken finger.  His 2008-09 season ended with him appearing in 64 games with 1 goal, 12 points, and a team defensemen leading +13.  He averaged 19:45 per night, with 3:18 on the PK. His goal production dried up even though he took more shots on goal in fewer games.  His one goal was a shorthanded empty-netter against the Penguins.  He also got into the first and only fight of his NHL career, an April Fool's Day dust up with NY Islanders winger Tim Jackman that spurred the Capitals to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win the game.  Those were 5 of his 21 PIM on the season.  His postseason was again marred by injury, broken ribs sidelined him for all but the first, and only, embarrassing game of the playoffs. The Caps lost and Schultz finished -1. 

Schultz's 2009-10 season was remarkable in that he led the entire NHL in +/- with a +50 rating, and his defense partner, Mike Green, finished second among NHL defensemen with a +45.  Schultz posted career highs in games played (73), assists (20), points (23), and PIM (32).  His ice time went up to 19:51 per game while his shorthanded ice time dropped to 2:38 per game, though that probably has more to do with the Capitals taking fewer penalties than anything else.  He also took more shots on goal, but not by much.

Comparable Players
The comparable players to look at against Schultz are Johnny Oduya, Trevor Daley, Fedor Tyutin, and Tim Gleason, all mid-20s defensemen in their 3rd or 4th seasons who signed their contracts in the last two seasons.  I will look at their stats at the time of their contracts.  They are all very similar in their three seasons preceding their contracts they were all averaging between 18:30 and 20:30 per game and they all blocked a lot of shots and have similar offensive numbers.  None of them spend a great deal of time on the powerplay, and some are more physical than others.

Schultz:  247 Games, 9 Goals, 47 Assists, 56 Points, +80, 97 Penalty Minutes
Contract Year:  73 GP, 3-20-23, +50, 32 PIM and 7 Playoff Games, 0-1-1
Preceding Year:  64 GP, 1-11-12, +13, 21 PIM and 1 Playoff Game, 0-0-0
Preceding Year, 72 GP, 5-13-18, +12, 28 PIM and 2 Playoff Games, 0-0-0

Oduya (3 years, $3 million per):  233 GP, 15-51-66, +43 and 137 PIM
Contract Year:  82 GP, 7-22-29, +21, 30 PIM and 7 Playoff Games, 0-0-0
Preceding Year:  75 GP, 6-20-26, +27, 46 PIM and 5 Playoff Games, 0-1-1
Preceding Year:  76 GP, 2-9-11, -5, 61 PIM and 6 Playoff Games, 0-1-1

Gleason (4 years, $2.75 million per):  262 GP, 7-46-53, -4 and 239 PIM
Contract Year:  80 GP, 3-16-19, +5, 84 PIM
Preceding Year:  57 GP, 2-4-6, -10, 57 PIM
Preceding Year:  78 GP, 2-19-21, E, 77 PIM

Tyutin (4 years, $2.84 million per):  250 GP, 15-51-66, -6 and 159 PIM
Contract Year:  82 GP, 5-15-20, +5, 43 PIM and 10 Playoff Games, 0-3-3
Preceding Year:  66 GP, 2-12-14, -8, 44 PIM and 10 Playoff Games, 0-5-5
Preceding Year:  77 GP, 6-19-25, +1, 58 PIM and 4 Playoff Games, 0-1-1

Daley (3 years, $2.3 million per):  264 GP, 13-43-56, -7 and 249 PIM
Contract Year:  82 GP, 5-19-24, -1, 85 PIM and 18 Playoff Games, 1-0-1
Preceding Year:  74 GP, 4-8-12, +2, 63 PIM and 7 Playoff Games, 1-0-1
Preceding Year:  81 GP, 3-11-14, -2, 87 PIM and 3 Playoff Games, 0-0-0

Analyzing the Comparables
Among the comparables, Schultz has the fewest takeaways and the most giveways per 60 minutes, the fewest penalty minutes, the best +/-, and the most blocked shots per 60 minutes.  He is right in the middle of the range in terms of hits per 60 minutes.  He has also appeared in the fewest career playoff games (10) of any of the comparables except for Gleason, who had none.  Schultz would also be the youngest player (24) to sign a contract at this stage, all the others were 25 except for Oduya.  Schultz is easily the biggest and could possibly be the slowest skater.  

Johnny Oduya is the highest paid of the comparables at $3 million per year.  The former Washington Capitals draft pick also gets the most time on the powerplay and has the highest single season goal and point totals of any of the defensemen (7 goals and 29 points in his contract year).  He signed his contract in 2009 while all the others signed theirs in 2008.  Interestingly he was also the oldest (27) and has the fewest seasons (3), while all the other players have played in 4.  He represents the high end of the range Schultz would compete for.  He has more offensive ability and and more polish at the same stage of his career, and he was the lowest draft pick, all the others were taken no later than 43rd in their drafts.  

Tim Gleason is a more physical player than Schultz, he hits more (6.16 Hits/60) and takes more penalties, including fights.  He also played the fewest minutes of any of the comparables.  He also has the least in terms of offensive ability.  

Fedor Tyutin is also a physical player (5.66 Hits/60) without a lot of penalties, and played the most minutes of any of the comparables, over 20 minutes a game for his entire career.  He had some powerplay time and has some offensive ability, marked by having the most playoff points (9) in 24 games.  

Trevor Daley had the fewest hits (1.69 Hits/60) and blocked shots (3.72/60), but the most takeaways (1.14/60).  He has played the most playoff games (29) and has the most playoff goals (2).  Interestingly he has the most penalty minutes of any of the comparables.  His $2.3 million per year is the low end of what Schultz could expect to receive.  

Final Analysis
Schultz compares most favorably to Gleason and Tyutin and their $2.75 million, though he may not ask for that much.  His league-leading +50 is a huge bargaining chip, especially with his history of gaudy +/- numbers.  His size and shot-blocking are also impressive, as is his disciplined play.  He is now a top pairing defenseman in the NHL and paired very well with a Norris Trophy finalist.  He didn't embarrass himself in the playoffs this year, though he still has still relatively little postseason experience or success, which will hurt him in negotiations.  His speed could become an issue, but there have been many slow players who have succeeded (Larry Murphy and Dave Andreychuk are prime examples, and Rico Fata is a great example of just how little speed matters sometimes).  Schultz could expect to earn no less than a 3 year deal at $2.6 million per year, though he could conceivably get $2.9 million and 4 years.  He may take a hometown discount, but don't expect him to go below Trevor Daley's $2.3 million.   The only two Capitals defensemen making more than that next season are Tom Poti ($3.5 million) and Mike Green ($5.25 million), which sounds about right.  


  1. Nice write up but I'm surprised at your salary conclusion. Part of me feels that because of the salary cap a player like Jeff Schultz won't see more than $2M. That's dependent on his agent of course, but with the cap putting more of a bind on the organization.

  2. A lot of Caps have been taking hometown discounts, and Schultz may opt to take less money to stay in DC. His lack of postseason experience may hurt him more than I've said in the post, too.

    Make no mistake though, if the Capitals didn't qualify Schultz or if he got an offer sheet, he could easily get $2.9 million from someone like Atlanta or Edmonton who would be looking for a big, young, and solid defenseman.