This morning Oilers play-by-play man Jack Michaels tweeted that Justin Schultz would not be in the Oilers lineup tonight when the team takes on the New Jersey Devils. After a pair of ugly losses over the weekend, games in which Schultz repeatedly looked awful, it was hardly surprising that Schultz would get a night off to watch the press box. There might be a little more to this though, as Renaud Lavoie is reporting, Schultz's omission from the Oilers lineup could be trade related.
Why it makes sense to trade Justin Schultz
Schultz is one of many 5/6/7/8 defencemen currently employed by the Oilers and with a contract worth $3.9M this season he hasn't come close to being worth the money that this team is paying him. At the end of the season he'll be a restricted free agent, meaning the Oilers could keep him around but if they want to retain his rights they'll have to qualify him at 100% of his salary, something that I doubt they, or any other team in the league, will want to do. Without a qualifying offer Schultz will become an unrestricted free agent free to sign wherever he wants; moving him now would allow the Oilers to get something in return for the asset.
Why it doesn't make sense to trade Justin Schultz
Unless you're trolling your fan base there isn't a single good reason not to trade Schultz. The Oilers have other players Adam Clendening, for example) who can fill in for Schultz between now and the end of the season. Even if Schultz was willing to re-sign in Edmonton at a greatly reduced rate there simply isn't room for him on the Oilers roster next season. Fitting Eric Gryba into the lineup won't be easy, Schultz would be another bottom pairing player that the Oilers would have to make room for, it's just not going to happen.
Likelihood of trade happening today: 4/10
Between now and the trade deadline Schultz will be traded; the likelihood of that happening is 9.9/10. Today though I don't know that it's very likely. Renaud Lavoie has broken stories in the past and knows plenty of things that we don't, but Todd McLellan's comments this morning certainly made it sound like Schultz's night off was a direct result of his play over the weekend. We'll have to wait and see.
"He needs to watch a game and reflect on his play and what his impact is both offensively and defensively." Coach McLellan on Schultz— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 9, 2016