Signed as an insurance policy in the offseason, Nick Schultz was thrust into duty after just one game this season, and he’s been a mainstay ever since.
So it’s logical that the Flyers want to extend the 32-year-old blueliner, something Frank Seravalli reported over the weekend.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 2, 2015
Schultz’s presence along the blue line has given the Flyers some stability in the back end, in a time when they’ve needed it most. He’s been a steady penalty killer, and takes on some of the tougher defensive assignments for head coach Craig Berube. He may be a security blanket for Berube, however, Schultz isn’t the right defenseman general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers need to think about re-signing.
Who should the Flyers re-sign?
The problem with re-signing Schultz is that the Flyers already have players in that specific mold. Nick Grossmann and Luke Schenn are just two defensemen who fit similar roles and play the same kind of style as Schultz.
The player who doesn’t fit that mold? Michael Del Zotto.
Del Zotto has had his ups and downs this year, which came full circle when he was inexplicably sat for a nine-game stretch, but the 24-year-old blueliner brings something to the defense that the Flyers sorely lack.
Minus Mark Streit, Del Zotto is one of the few Flyers defenseman that possesses creativity in his own zone and in the offensive end. He excels at starting the break out and can play the point on the power-play unit. Unless Philadelphia makes a big run, it isn’t reaching the postseason and should be looking toward the future. Del Zotto is younger than Schultz, he’s made strides in the defensive end and has the offensive awareness to help drive possession in their zone.
While Shayne Ghostisbehere and Travis Sanheim play similar puck-moving styles, both aren’t as close to being NHL ready, giving Del Zotto a few more years to contribute and grow into his role. Eventually, Del Zotto could take over and fill the void that Mark Streit will leave whenever he decides to call it a career at the end of his current deal.
Think about the defensemen the Flyers have been connected to in trade rumors over the past few seasons — i.e. Justin Schultz, Dustin Byfuglien — and what do they have in common? They are offensively-driven defensemen. That’s an accurate portrayal of the Flyers’ needs along the blue line, and I’m not sure what good it would do to re-up Schultz at this point in time.
What to do with Schultz
During his brief time with the Flyers, Schultz has regained the form that made him a mainstay in the Minnesota Wild’s defensive pairings. Schultz has been solid in his own end, but the Flyers have players coming up the pipeline who also can handle themselves in the defensive zone (Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg).
Re-signing Schultz only makes sense if it’s after the season, when the Flyers have a better idea what direction they are heading, or if they decide to pull a deal shipping off either Grossmann or Schenn.
Schultz provides defensive stability and isn’t incompetent in the offensive end, so there is value there in bringing him back. Schultz doesn’t provide the offensive punch that Del Zotto brings to the table, but his defensive stability are on par with Grossmann and Schenn and he’s a stronger skater.
They also shouldn’t sign Schultz to anything longer than a two-year deal. The Flyers’ cap situation is still pretty dire, so any deal involving Schultz will need to be very team friendly. Unless they deal one of the aforementioned defensemen above, re-signing Schultz could constitute as redundancy.