Less than two hours after the Oilers had announced that they'd agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Justin Schultz, the team's General Manager, Craig MacTavish, was in front of cameras explaining his thinking in signing the restricted free agent to a $3.675M deal.
There were a couple of things MacTavish said which I thought might be worth thinking about a little more closely and thankfully Bruce McCurdy had transcribed parts of the press conference to make this a little easier. All of the quotes below are taken from Bruce's piece at the Cult of Hockey; that post is, as always, worth reading.
Untapped potential, incredible potential of this player. I feel like Justin is going to be a great player and a great Oiler. What we wanted to do as an organization is buy ourselves a little bit of time to give ourselves a chance to negotiate a long-term deal.
There's nothing much new here. MacTavish has on many previous occasions spoken glowingly of Schultz and his potential as a player. Personally, I'm not as sold on Schultz as the Oilers' front office appears to be but he's played just 122 games in the NHL, I certainly won't say that he can't improve as a player. Hell, just give him a non-boat anchor defence partner and things would probably look better. Of the nearly 2085 even strength minutes Schultz has played, 38.7% have been played alongside Nick Schultz and 22.3% with Andrew Ference. Take those minutes away and we're left with what would amount to about 48 games worth of hockey to make a decision from, so buying some time is without a doubt a better decision than going all in at this point.
We had trouble agreeing on a number based on such a small sample size for Justin. We as an organization wanted a little more information, fully aware that information can be expensive. There’s a significant gap where the player is currently and where we expect him to be. Newport wasn’t going to undersell this player.
If you read Jonathan Willis' work regularly (if you don't you should) then you likely saw his post about the Schultz camp using Subban as a comparable. Assuming that information is accurate then "Newport wasn't going to undersell this player" might be the understatement of the year. Listening to MacTavish here I get the impression that the two sides agree on what Schultz will be, the issue is/was when does he become that player. MacTavish and I might not share the same optimism of Schultz's future, but I like that he seems to understand that there is still a long way to go.
I disagree with the perception that he’s weaker on the defensive side of things. He showed me at the end of last year that he was managing the decisions on when to go, when to probe offensively, when to get back. I know he’s going to be a player that can be counted on in both ends. I think that Justin has Norris Trophy potential and I don’t think there are too many people who disagree with me in that regard.
I'd like to take back the previous statement about a long way to go, please. Whether you're a #fancystats fan or part of the just-watch-the-game brigade, if you think that Schultz isn't a weak player in the defensive end of the rink the I think you might have him confused with Jeff Petry. And as for the Norris Trophy potential, well he is a defeceman so I guess there's a chance, but there's a Grand Canyon sized gap between the player Schultz is today, or eve the seen him good version, and his winning any NHL awards.
Points tend to get people excited but when I hear statements like that I get concerned about what the Oilers think Schultz will be. Could MacTavish be doing nothing more than pumping the tires of a player he just signed, a player that the team desperately needs to take a step forward this season? I sure hope that's the case because if not I fear we're looking at a situation where the Oilers want so badly for Schultz to be a star that they're willing to see it in just about everything he does on the ice. Confirmation bias scares the hell out of me.