Oilers Trade Tom Gilbert To Minnesota Wild For Nick Schultz

FEB 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe (29) and Minnesota Wild defenseman Nick Schultz (55) look on as goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) allows a goal shot by San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) (not pictured) in the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Sharks 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-US PRESSWIRE

The Edmonton Oilers have traded defenseman Tom Gilbert to the Minnesota Wild for Nick Schultz. I refused to believe at first, but then the Oilers reported it themselves on Twitter:

#Oilers acquire boat anchor from division rival in exchange for very talented player.

Okay, they may not have said it exactly like that, but I'm pretty sure that's how it's supposed to be read. I mean... come on. Both players have two years left on their current contracts. Schultz has $3.5M cap hit and a $3.6M salary compared to a $4.0M cap hit and $3.25M salary for Gilbert. So unless the Oilers are going to be a cap team over the next two years, this is a move that makes them more expensive. Does it make them better?

No. No it doesn't. It doesn't even make them a little bit better. It, in fact, makes them worse. This isn't just because Tom Gilbert is fantastic, but let's just dwell on that part of things for a moment. Last season, Gilbert made virtually everyone he played with better. This year, it's more of the same. Gilbert has been taking on the toughs, and the Oilers are still miles better when he's on the ice. We've talked a lot about Gilbert here, but let's just put it out there: Tom Gilbert is excellent.

So what about Schultz? Nick Schultz is a defense-first defender who will turn thirty in August. Jacques Lemaire trusted him in as a tough-minutes defender alongside Brent Burns, and he did quite well in that role. the possession metrics weren't positive, but they were close and Schultz had - literally - the most difficult zone-start ratio of any defenseman in the league.

But that was two head coaches ago. How is he today? Schultz has been third on the team in five-on-five time on ice per game in each of the last two years, and has continued to start predominantly in his own zone. But his Corsi has taken a bit of a beating, and this year his Relative Corsi is last among regular defenders on a very bad Wild team even though he's not been given the toughest match-ups. That looks to me like a defenseman in decline.

That said, he's not ancient. Taking on Nick Schultz, looked at in isolation, is not a bad thing. He could bounce back, especially if he finds a coach that trusts him in those tough situations with a partner that can help him. If you do that and have Ladislav Smid playing with Jeff Petry on the second pairing, the defense actually looks much improved. Heck, with Schultz looking like he was out of favor during the summer, it's very close to what Derek and I were suggesting before the season.

But here's the thing. We've now got a left-handed defense-first defender who needs to play the toughs to earn his money and needs a highly competent puck-mover with him in order to be effective. Sounds like a guy who could play really well with Tom Gilb... dammit.

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