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.
Arizona locked in what promises to be a key part of the club’s future on Monday, agreeing to a three-year, entry-level deal with its first-round pick at this year’s draft — OHL Erie center Dylan Strome.
“We are very pleased to sign Dylan to an entry-level contract,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said in a release. “Dylan is a very talented player and all he’s done his entire career is lead his teams and leagues in scoring and win championships. He will be an important player for us in the future and a key building block for this franchise.”
The younger brother of Islanders’ forward — and former No. 5 overall pick — Ryan Strome, Dylan had a tremendous campaign as Connor McDavid’s running mate in Erie this year, capturing the OHL scoring title with 129 points in 68 games.
At 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Strome has good size but will need to add bulk to compete at the NHL level, especially in a Western Conference that’s loaded at the center position. In fact, the need for an elite center is what pushed Maloney to select Strome No. 3 overall, even though other teams were pushing hard to trade up to that spot (also worth noting Boston College’s Noah Hanifin was still on the board, a guy some consider to be a franchise defenseman.)
Despite all that, Maloney insisted Strome was the guy.
“Looking at our organization and what we have, it wasn’t only that we really needed what we believe is a really good, skilled, playmaking center that makes others better and who’s won everywhere he’s went,” Maloney said. “So let’s say we pass on that and take a defenseman; how are we going to ever find somebody close to [Strome]?
“We didn’t see it in the draft.”
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli continued to bolster his goaltending on Monday, acquiring Anders Nilsson from the Blackhawks in exchange for unsigned prospect Liam Coughlin.
Nilsson, 25, is an interesting entity. Picked 62nd overall by the Isles in 2009, he appeared in 23 games for New York over three seasons before signing with KHL team AK Bars Kazan last summer. A few months later, the Isles traded Nilsson’s rights — he was an RFA upon leaving for Russia — as part of the deal that saw Nick Leddy head to Long Island.
In Russia, Nilsson resurrected his stock by going 20-9-8 with a 1.71 GAA and .936 save percentage. He also played for Team Sweden at the 2015 Worlds, splitting time with Jhonas Enroth.
At 6-foot-5, Nilsson cuts an imposing figure in goal and it’ll be curious to see where he lands on the Edmonton depth chart. Chiarelli went out and acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers at the draft, and already had Ben Scrivens in the fold. One has to think Scrivens could be in direct competition for the No. 2 gig with Nilsson, assuming Talbot enters the season as the Oilers’ starter.