Player: Justin Schultz
Born: July 6, 1990 (30-years-old)
Weight: 193 pounds
Birthplace: Kelowna, British Columbia
Draft: 2008 Anaheim, 2nd Round, 43rd overall
2019-20 Statistics: 46 games played, three goals, nine assists
Contract Status: Schultz is an unrestricted free agent after having played the final year of a three-year, $16.5 million contract that carried a salary cap hit of $5.5 million.
Data via Hockey-Reference.com.
Schultz has spent almost equal time with the Oilers and Penguins, but has had a remarkably different career with the two teams. His production has been significantly better on a per-minute basis with the Penguins, with an absolutely massive swing in goal differential. The proper deployment and right teammates makes a world of difference for players.
Advanced Stats History & 2019-20 Season
Corsi For%: 49.7% (20th)
Goals For%: 47.60% (20th)
xGF%: 50.8 (16th)
Scoring Chance %: 48.0% (23rd)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 49.6% (17th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 7.4% (20th)
On-ice save%: .908 (16th)
When everyone was healthy, Schultz was deployed in a third-pairing — usually alongside Jack Johnson — and power play role for most of the season. His performance obviously leaves a lot to be desired. Not only did his offensive production crater, his underlying numbers were among the worst on the team and the defense corps. While Johnson received most of the ire from the fanbase, Schultz’s performance did not do the team any favors at all. He has never been a big possession driver, and that continued this season. But he at least always had the power play and some offense to help make up for it. This year the Penguins did not even get that.
Four games played: 0 goals, 1 assist
For as bad as the regular season performance was the playoffs were somehow even worse. It was so bad, in fact, that Schultz was called out by name by general manager Jim Rutherford as a player that had more to give. In 58 minues of 5-on-5 ice-time Schultz was on the ice for five goals against while he seemed to be at the center of several of them. The Johnson-Schultz pairing was consistently victimized by the Canadiens throughout the four game series. While it was not the only issue the Penguins had, it was certainly one of the most significant. Maybe the most significant.
Statistically speaking Schultz had a solid October and seemed to get off to a strong start in what was always going to be an important season for him. Obviously, everything went down the tubes for him in November as he finished with only five points over his final 32 regular season games and was a minus-16 overall. The big concern here was the complete lack of offense. That is the one high-end skill that Schultz has that gives him value, and if that disappears there really is not much else going on here that makes a meaningful, positive impact.
This was a huge year for Schultz and it could not have possibly gone any worse for him.
He needed a big year not only for the Penguins to solidify their depth on defense and give them a functioning third pairing, but he needed one for himself in a contract year to show he could bounce back from an injury-shortened 2018-19 season.
None of that happened.
Instead, he missed more time due to another significant injury and when he was healthy was a fraction of the player he was at his peak in Pittsburgh. It turned out to be one of the worst seasons of his career. When he was paired with Johnson that duo was one of the team’s biggest Achilles Heels all season. When he was away from Johnson he did not fare any better.
It is almost certainly not going to be in Pittsburgh given the salary cap constraints and the fact he is coming off consecutive injury-shortened seasons, with the most recent one being a start-to-finish nightmare. Wherever he ends up the primary hope should be that his injury luck changes and he is able to play a full season without interruption. From there, the key will be what it has always been for Schultz — a sheltered role heavy on the power play time that puts him into positions to use his offensive skillset. Basically, a third-pairing and power play specialist.
Question To Ponder
Honestly it probably comes down to what sort of contract is he going to get on the open market? The list of question marks here is significant, and no one should be sure of what they are getting. He is going to be entering his age 30 season, has been limited to just 75 games over the past two seasons, and has not looked particularly good during that stretch. He is a player that requires a very specific and specialized role to excel and if his offense does not bounce back then it is hard to see where he fits on a contending team. It would not be a shock if he ended up being a PTO player or a player that signs a one-year “prove it” contract to rebuild his value and take another run at a payday in the summer before the 2021-22 season.
Grade Justin Schultz’s 2019-20 performance
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