The Seattle Kraken kicked off free agency by signing right-shot defenceman Justin Schultz to a two-year, $6 million deal. The 32-year-old was a member of the Washington Capitals, where he scored four goals and recorded 23 points in 74 games. Seattle will be his fourth NHL team, having also previously played for the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins before his two-year stint in Washington.
Schultz’s Playing Career Up Until Now
After being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 Draft at 43rd overall, Schultz decided to attend the University of Wisconsin, where he was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in back-to-back seasons. Instead of signing with the Ducks, he decided to test free agency, eventually signing with the Edmonton Oilers in 2012. While he played well at the NHL level, it was his American Hockey League (AHL) play during his rookie season that caught people’s eyes, as in 34 games he recorded 48 points, winning the Eddie Shore Award handed out to the AHL’s best defenceman. At the NHL level, he finished the season with 27 points in 48 games.
After a few seasons with the Oilers, Schultz was traded to the Penguins during the 2015-16 season to help bolster Pittsburgh’s blue line for the playoffs. Over his four-year career with the Oilers, he scored 28 goals and recorded 101 goals in 248 career regular season games. He ended up playing a total of five seasons with the Penguins, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups and posting a career-high 51 points in 2016-17. That season, he also finished 10th in Norris voting. During his five seasons, he scored 22 goals and recorded 113 points in 234 regular season games.
In the summer of 2020, Schultz once again tested free agency, signing a two-year deal with the Capitals. He played a total of 120 games with Washington scoring seven goals and recording 50 assists during that time. After not re-signing in Washington, he signed a two-year deal with the Kraken during the 2022 offseason.
Schultz’s Scouting Report
On the surface, this move fills a big need for the Kraken as they bring in an NHL calibre right-shot defenceman who can produce in the offensive zone. Schultz has also been used significantly on the power play throughout his career, with 103 of his 264 career points coming with the extra man. Seattle finished last season with the 29th ranked power play so bringing in a defenceman who understands how to successfully quarterback a power play was a top priority. This move also allows the Kraken to take some of the burden off of Vince Dunn, as he continues to develop into the offensive threat Seattle hopes for in the future.
In the defensive zone, Schultz is reliable. He isn’t a player that is going to force turnovers due to physical play, but he understands where his stick needs to be to break up plays. He also shows little hesitation in blocking shots, as evidenced by the 87 he had last season. While his defensive game is not the strongest, he doesn’t make too many mistakes and can transition the puck out of the zone once he gets a hold of it.
There are some injury concerns when it comes to Schultz, though. He has never played a full 82-game season and missed time with an upper and lower body injury at different times last season. After the injury-plagued season the Kraken went through in 2021-22 they need to try and stay healthy if they want to see improvement this coming season. He is going to be a big part of this organization in 2022-23 and will need to stay off the injured reserve list for the Kraken to fight for a playoff spot.
Schultz has some connections with current Kraken players already, as he has already played with Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, and Brandon Tanev throughout his career. During his time in Pittsburgh, he also spent time with Jamie Oleksiak as the two were defence partners during their two seasons together. In 181 minutes together during the regular season five on five, the pair posted a 52.8% Corsi while outscoring the opposition 10-6. Definitely something to monitor as the season gets closer and the Kraken start putting together their defensive pairings for the upcoming season.
This contract is smart on a couple of fronts. First, the Kraken fill a massive need on the blue line, but it also acts as a stop-gap for Seattle. The Kraken are not expected to contend for a couple of seasons, so bringing in Schultz allows them to stay relatively competitive without forcing a younger player into an elevated role they aren’t ready for. As mentioned, it also takes some of the stress off Dunn, as he will no longer be asked to carry most of the offence from the blue line. Overall, this is a deal that benefits the player and team for the next two seasons.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.