Justin Schultz is a very good prospect. There’s a distinct chance that should he indeed enter free agency, then the Anaheim Ducks will have lost a good player for the future. That said, it simply doesn’t make sense for the Rangers to be linked with him for various reasons. Yes, it’s rumoured and yes, plenty of Blueshirt fans would like him on the Rangers, but read on to find out why Schultz to the Rangers isn’t a realistic option for either party.
The Rangers are pretty damn stacked at the defense position. They are stacked at the NHL level and last time most people checked, they have some pretty high end prospects en route to the NHL level soon as well (hello Erixon, Tim and McIlrath, Dylan). Justin Schultz and his agent will know all this. The Rangers may not be the 1975 Canadiens with Lapointe, Savard and Robinson, but the Rangers blueline is young, talented and one of the main reasons this team went so far this year. Where does a talent (and he’s still just a talent folks) like Schultz project in the immediate future?
Window of Contention
The Rangers window of contention opened this season, a little earlier than some expected. Following a fabulously successful regular season this team went deep and were two wins away from the Stanley Cup. Adding a prospect to the blueline instead of a veteran – especially given the relative youth of the defense – makes little sense given that this team probably can ill afford to wait for a prospect to learn the ropes at such a key position. When Del Zotto and McDonagh went through the learning curve a lot less was expected of this team. The timing for Schultz is simply wrong.
No Sure Thing
A short while ago the hockey universe was abuzz with anticipation for the next blueline star out of college going through free agency. His name was Matt Gilroy and I seem to remember the Rangers winning that particular auction. Matt Gilroy was a disappointment. He (eventually) became a solid NHL’er and wasn’t a bad player for the Rangers but in a big market, with big perhaps unfair expectations, Gilroy didn’t live up to the hype. While Gilroy wasn’t quite the NCAA offensive force Schultz appears to have been, he was a winner on a strong program culminating in the Hobey Baker award. Leaning to the fact that despite a great college career there’s no guarantee Schultz will be a big time producer at the NHL level.
The Rangers will have money to spend this off season. Depending on the CBA and a few contracts of their own any shopping spree budget is yet to be determined. The Rangers have needs far greater than winning the Schultz sweepstakes. Glen Sather will likely pursue a premier forward and defensive depth. Particularly the former will cost significant money. Given that the Rangers window of contention is opening, if they pursue any defenseman with big dollars think Ryan Suter calibre rather than unproven college calibre. It’s unlikely the Rangers will throw big money at someone that can’t guarantee success. Guys like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter would make this team much stronger. Would Schultz?
We’ve already mentioned the words sweepstakes, hype, free agency, agent and the phrase ‘no sure thing’. Add auction to the list. Unlike the Rangers, half the league desperately needs a Justin Schultz. Half the league (if not more) will likely bid on Schultz. While he may very well make the Rangers better long term and while Glen Sather may certainly inquire to his availability, this auction ultimately makes no sense for the Rangers.
Update by Dave: To be clear on this, Schultz would be signing an ELC, so his salary is capped at $925,000. The auction Chris is referring to is the auction on signing/performance bonuses. That too is capped, but it’s unlikely some teams will be willing to max everything out for a second round draft pick.
And the outcome is?
Justin Schultz may very well become a premier NHL defenseman. He may dominate box scores down the line. It’s just not likely to be with the Rangers for so many reasons. Timing, money and the Rangers enviable position in Schultz’s position make him the wrong (albeit elite) prospect at the wrong time.