Oilers RFAs: Does A Bridge Contract Make Sense For Justin Schultz?

Justin Schultz and Jeff Petry make up Edmonton’s two biggest RFA names this summer. Petry will be due for a subsequent raise, but will the Oilers favour a bridge-contract for Schultz? This summer presents the Oilers an opportunity to remold their supporting cast to make a run at the playoffs next season. Edmonton finished the season 28th in the NHL with a 29-44-9 record for 67 points.

Available RFAs: G Richard Bachman, F Luke Gadzic, F Curtis Hamilton, F Roman Horak, D Philip Larsen, F Andrew Miller, D Jeff Petry, F Tyler Pitlick, D Justin Schultz

Bolting for the KHL

Forward Roman Horak and defenseman Philip Larsen join Anton Belov in the KHL. Horak signed with Vityaz Podolsk and Larsen with Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk.

Horak as you will remember was acquired along with Laurent Brossoit in exchange for Ladislav Smid and Olivier Roy in November 2013. Horak was productive in the AHL with OKC scoring 21 goals and 48 points in 53 games but was limited to just two games with the Oilers.

Larsen on the other hand was acquired inexchange for Shawn Horcoff and was given plenty of opportunity in 30 games finishing 4th on defense with 17:01 TOI behind the trio of Justin Schultz, Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry. Unfortunately Larsen frustrated the coaching staff with turnovers and his defensive zone coverage.

Both players grew tired of Dallas Eakins coaching philosophy and are seen by some to be unfortunate casualties of war in trying to create a new attitude in Edmonton.

The Oilers retain both players rights and could trade them in the future as they did with Hartikainen’s this season after he signed in the KHL as well.

Oilers expected to bring back most RFA’s for 2014-15

It’s expected that the Oilers bring back Richard Bachman in goal next year to split duties with Laurent Brossoit in OKC. Bachman will most likely get a similar two-way deal he signed last summer after the Dallas Stars chose not to qualify his rights. The 26-year-old goaltender impressed many Oiler fans early in the season before going down with a lengthy groin injury, but finished his season with the Barons appearing in 52 games and recording 26-wins with a 2.99 GAA and .909SV% in the process.

The jury is still out on Curtis Hamilton who was rumoured to not be qualified this summer after being a 2nd round choice (48th) in 2010. Hamilton has struggled to adjust to the pro-game as injuries and consistency have plagued his game. Hamilton, 22, has struggled to secure meaningful minutes under Todd Nelson and was limited to just 43 games this season in the AHL. It also didn’t help when Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal described his career as being on life-support either.

The remaining forward RFA’s are Luke Gazdic, Andrew Miller and Tyler Pitlick. Gazdic, 24, will most likely return for a similar deal to the $605K he made this season to play 4th line minutes but will have to make some changes in his game so he can play more than 5:48 per game.

Miller, 25, just finished his one-year two-way $925K deal after concluding his college career with Yale University in the NCAA where he scored 41 points in 37 games in his final season. Miller transitioned to the AHL last season and scored 8-goals and 34 points in 52 games. It will be interesting to see how Miller does over a full season and will likely get another two-way one or two year deal around $800-850K. Miller will be given the opportunity to prove he can be a recall option next season.

Pitlick, 22, has finished his entry-level deal with a $900K cap hit. Pitlick has an opportunity to make the Oilers out of training camp in a depth role. Expect another short-term deal just shy of what he made in his ELC but a chance to build on the 10 games he played this season. On defense the key RFA’s remaining are Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz.


Both are expected back and to receive meaningful contracts in return. The Oilers current state of their defense doesn’t allow them to move Petry, 26, who was one of, if not the best, defenseman they had last season. Petry is a second-pairing defenseman playing difficult minutes for the Oilers against the top lines of the opposition. Petry will never be a top offensive defenseman for the Oilers and in the long-term can fit in as a strong complimentary piece on the second-pair once the Oilers develop or acquire reasonable first-pairing defeseman.

Petry will get a sizeable increase over the $1.75M he made last season and could potentially double that in a new contract. Expect the Oilers to re-sign him for $3.1-3.4M over 3-4 years.

Ongoing negotiations with Schultz.

Schultz is an intriguing situation. The Oilers are expected to meet with Newport Sports again next week to discussion an extension to both Petry and Schultz.

Schultz has had his fair share of struggles defensively but has some interesting offensive capabilities as he can quarterback the 1st PP and provide some meaningful minutes on the backend. Schultz finished the season with 23:20 TOI for most minutes among the Oilers defense. Schultz is going to be here long-term and the defensive short-comings will iron themselves out. But don’t expect the Oilers to throw out a similiar $6M cap hit they gave to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Schultz is a prime candidate for a short-term bridge contract and the Oilers may be wise not to gamble long-term on Schultz run-and-gun style as similar deals have burned teams like the Washington Capitals in Mike Green.

But the Oilers will also be playing with a loaded gun incase Schultz figures it out next season and at the end of the contract is up for a big money deal. Would it best to potentially settle on a two-year deal between around $3.5M?

The Bridge Contract

It’s also worth noting that the Montreal Canadiens played hardball with PK Subban during their negotiations and eventually broke his holdout and signed him to a $2.6M deal. Subban went on to knock it out of the park with a Norris trophy win and is considered one of the best defenseman in the NHL today. The Canadiens are now paying for it at the negotiation table this summer when Subban will be able to command north of $7M per season.

It will be interesting to see if they Oilers are sold on Schultz abilities and give him a long-term deal or take the short-term bridge option opting to steer away from paying for potential as they did with Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins.

A summer of opportunity presents itself in Edmonton.