When Justin Schultz decided to sign with the Oilers instead of the Anaheim Ducks, the team that actually drafted him, some fans in sunny California were upset. Others were very upset. Both were reasonable reactions to losing a player that they felt should have signed with their team. What surprises me is that nearly two and a half years later some still don't understand why he did what he did.
What sent me down this rabbit hole on an otherwise lovely Wednensday morning? Twitter, of course.
The writer of that story is still a little upset with how the Shultz saga played out, and thought it might be nice to see how fans here in Edmonton view him now that we've had a couple years to watch him develop. This fan reaction is demonstrated through a number of randomly selected tweets, all of which happen to be very negative. Ignoring for a second that those tweets don't seem random at all, and that I could find enough negative tweets to fill a story on almost any Oilers players after virtually every game, it has little to do with why Schultz signed in Edmonton in the first place.
It was never about not liking Anaheim or their coaches. It wasn't that he liked Edmonton or thought that the rebuild would guarantee him multiple Stanley Cup rings before the age of 30. All of those things might have been factors, I don't live in Schultz's head so I don't know, but this was about money more than anything else.
The Oilers and Ducks were both able to offer Schultz the exact same contract, but what the Oilers could offer him that the Ducks couldn't was an opportunity to play on a terrible defence. And because the defence was terrible he would get lots of minutes. Minutes that would translate into points. And points that would translate into bonuses earned. It was as clear then as it is now.
What I didn't see at the time was how the next phases of his decision to sign in Edmonton would play out. Having reached a number of his bonuses during his first two seasons Schultz ended up signing a one-year deal worth nearly the same amount as his ELC had been worth. That he was worth less didn't seem to matter, the Oilers decided that they'd rather have him in the lineup at an over payment than holding out. So not only did Schultz make more on his ELC by signing in Edmonton, he made more on his second contract too.
But wait there's more. Schultz is still an RFA at the end of the season, and that means that in order to retain his rights the Oilers need to extend a qualifying offer to him? Care to guess what that will be worth? 100% of his current contract value. Based on his play this season that would again be an overpayment but unless they trade him the Oilers' hands are basically tied at this point. The only real option they have to reduce his salary at all would be to take him arbitration, but I don't know if the team would even be willing to do that and it would only reduce his salary to 85% of what it is now, a savings of about $550K. His decision to sign in Edmonton just keeps making him more and more money.
Schultz's decision to sign in Edmonton was about money, plain and simple. It wasn't about ego or that he was a diva who felt he that he deserved the money, he was just smart enough to know that he could use the CBA to his advantage to get that money. When ELC contracts became part of the CBA the current members of NHLPA sold out the future members of the NHLPA by limiting what they could make on their first contract. Schultz found a way to fight back a little bit. Good for him, he probably made an extra $5M in the first four years of his career as a result. And I say that as an a fan of the team overpaying him by about 50%. And will likely be overpaying him by about the same amount next year as well.