The Edmonton Oilers will not be going to arbitration with defenseman Justin Schultz. The two sides have settled on a one-year deal worth $3.9 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Schultz, like many of his teammates, had his struggles last season. Though the 25-year-old had six goals and 25 assists in 81 games (his 31 points led all Edmonton d-men), defensively he remained a work in progress.
Case in point, Schultz was a healthy scratch for a game in November after making what former coach Dallas Eakins called a “mind-numbing” change that led to a goal against.
It’s hoped that a new coach in Todd McLellan, plus the addition of veteran defender Andrej Sekera, can help Schultz.
Only last summer, former GM Craig MacTavish opined that Schultz had “Norris Trophy potential.”
Stout defense, big-time scorers, grit and goaltending. Justin Williams believes that the Washington Capitals boast every element you’d expect to see in a winning team, as the Washington Post reports.
“Obviously you need to earn respect of the league, and certainly L.A. has done that, and Washington is certainly doing that the way they’ve played the last couple years,” Williams said. “Not making playoffs, you get to watch a little hockey, and I watched a lot last year. They were tough to play against, good goalie, dynamic players, good defense, all the ingredients of a championship team.”
The 33-year-old winger would know a contender when he sees it, right?
He already has three Stanley Cup victories with two different teams (two with the Los Angeles Kings, one with the Carolina Hurricanes) under his belt.
Let’s face it: it’s also easier to take his stance seriously considering how much of a relative bargain his two-year, $6.5 million contract is.
It’s one thing when a free agent seems to land a huge payday and you get the impression that said player is burying the big-money lead, but perhaps Williams could have grabbed a bigger contract if winning wasn’t as much of a priority? Not many players win a Conn Smythe and then see a decrease in pay, after all.
As excited as T.J. Oshie may be to join the Capitals, Williams stands as arguably the more interesting addition: a strong two-way player with playoff credentials. It helps that he clearly singled out Washington as a strong destination, too.
(H/T to The Score.)
Alex Ovechkin will turn 30 years old in September. He started his NHL career in 2005-06 when the league came out of its second lockout and posted 52 goals and 106 points.
He’s coming off another 50-plus goal season in 2014-15. It’s the sixth time in his NHL career he’s accomplished the feat, including his 65-goal season in 2007-08. But the one thing that has eluded him in his time with the Washington Capitals is a Stanley Cup, much to the lamentation of the club’s owner Ted Leonsis.
“He’s a fantastic player. I think all of you in this room, don’t take Alex Ovechkin for granted. I think that happens sometimes. You see him all the time and there’s this repetitiveness about his greatness,” said Leonsis, as per CSN Washington.
“But when people from outside the organization come in, I think you heard that with Justin Williams, this is the best player in the league. He’s been that for the last 10 years. And the consistency that he has brought is really historical.
“He doesn’t miss games. He plays hard all the time and I feel I haven’t met my commitment to him, that we would build a team that would be able to win Stanley Cups. That we’re in it together.”
Eliminated by the New York Rangers after a seven-game, second-round series that went the distance in May, the Capitals have had a busy off-season trying to bolster their club to take a run at the Stanley Cup next year.
They signed unrestricted free agent forward Justin Williams, known for his penchant of scoring important goals in Game 7s, and then acquired T.J. Oshie from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third-round pick the following day.
Oshie admitted in an interview with Mike Vogel of the Monumental Network that he’s unsure at this point in the summer of where he will fit into the Capitals lineup.
Less than a year ago, the Washington Capitals had no idea who would be their second-line center.
They know now.
It’s Evgeny Kuznetsov, the talented 23-year-old Russian who just signed a two-year extension with the club.
“I played good hockey but I have to play better,” Kuznetsov said, per CSN Washington. “I’ll try to focus on my game and what the coach tells me. If everybody does the right job probably something good will happen.”
Next season, the Caps could have a first line comprised of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, and a second line featuring Kuznetsov between Andre Burakovsky and Justin Williams.
“[Kuznetsov] filled a hole at second-line center that we’ve been trying to fill for a number of years,” Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said in May.
With a defense headlined by John Carlson and Matt Niskanen, and with Braden Holtby in goal, you’ll excuse Caps fans for finding it difficult to contain their excitement.
Related: Caps landing ‘affordable’ Williams a sign of the new free agency
RFA defenseman Justin Schultz opted not to file for arbitration on Sunday.
On Monday, the Oilers did.
More, from the Edmonton Journal:
The Oilers elected to take defenceman Justin Schultz to arbitration to reach a contract conclusion. It also triggers an opportunity for the club to buy out a player making more than $2.75 million, which would free up more salary-cap room.
Players and NHL teams can continue to negotiate right up until they reach the arbitrator’s doorstep while the buyout window opens briefly for the club given the uncertainty of what the impact a new deal would have on the cap.
Schultz, 25, is coming off a year in which he scored 31 points in 81 games, but was a liability defensively; in addition to an ugly minus-17 rating, he had poor possession metrics and saw his ice time drop by nearly a minute, compared to the season prior.
The rub with Schultz, of course, is his salary — he earned $3.675 million last season, which is quite a bit given his precarious hold on a spot in Edmonton’s top-six defense. The additions of Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart this offseason could greatly impact Schultz, as could the expected promotion of Darnell Nurse to the NHL level.
While a buyout seems unlikely — TSN’s Ryan Rishaug figures a deal will be reached — it does speak to how far Schultz has fallen. In 2012, the Oilers won the “sweepstakes” to sign Schultz after he opted not to ink with Anaheim, and in his first season in Edmonton he finished seventh in Calder voting, after scoring 27 points in 48 games.