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NHL Free Agency: Why Ben Lovejoy and Justin Schultz are about to cash in

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The stars have aligned perfectly for Ben Lovejoy and Justin Schultz to become rich men after they hit free agency on July 1st.

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ben Lovejoy had really a good season on the penalty kill this year.

(Here's a full link)

Whether he was with Ian Cole or Brian Dumoulin, Lovejoy was able to suppress shots (and goals) as well as anyone in the league while down a man. There could be a case to be made for cause/correlation with the rest of the Penguins usually strong PK unit altogether and certainly a defenseman is aided in an outlook like this by aggressive forwards who clear the puck. However, the numbers don't lie, and a rare advanced stat that reflects well on Lovejoy (who gets killed in a lot of the zone exit stats).

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The market may be favorable to Justin Schultz who's completed an image rehab by coming to Pittsburgh. However, perceptions can be strange things. Let's remember Schultz only played one shift (on the power play, no less) in the 3rd period of Stanley Cup winning game.

Bombulie sure isn't wrong, here's the General Fanager list of Right-handed free agents on July 1

rhdnhl62316

Boyle has announced his retirement, and rumors have stated that Jason Demers and the Stars are talking extension so he might not make it to the open market.

The best RHD options would be to sign (or trade) for Tyson Barrie or trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, but that would be an extreme cost both in contract and to get Colorado or St. Louis, respectively, to agree to give up their young defenseman.

If teams try to emulate the Penguins by building bottom-pair defensemen that can skate and move the puck, Schultz is going to be the best on the open market at that. Ironically, for a player so universally trashed coming into Pittsburgh he's now perceived differently and might cash right back in on a "bigger than he deserves" contract and get a bigger role than he can handle, which would almost certainly send him back exactly where he was in Edmonton.

Crazy, huh?

The above graphic makes life good for Lovejoy too, as he'll be the best all-around RHD on the open market, and one with the shine of having played individually very well in a Stanley Cup run. As seen above, he's good on the PK and has the intangible "great guy in the locker-room" tag on him as well. That all adds up to exactly the type of player that NHL general managers covet and tend to overpay every July.

It won't take long in free agency, given the scarcity of RH defensemen for Schultz and Lovejoy to find new contracts. In Lovejoy's case, it could be a very handsome contract at that.