The Anaheim Duckshave locked up forward Ryan Kesler to a huge six-year $41.25 million deal. The agreement, which will begin starting 2016-17, will prevent the Michigan native from hitting the free agent market as he was scheduled to do after next season.
The move is a lot of money ($6.875 million until 2021-22) for a player coming off of a 20-goal season and is already 30 years old. Now that’s not a knock against Kesler, who is a fine player both offensively and defensively, but it’s a significant amount of money to commit to somebody who’s exiting his prime. As theScore’s Justin Bourne semi-joked on Twitter, Kesler would be a prime candidate to be a selection should an expansion draft happen. The contract is simply not good. Anaheim wants continuity, but they’re paying the price to for it.
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The club has the trio of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Kesler locked up until 2021, but there’s still a lot the club has to do. Carl Hagelin, acquired in a draft-day trade for a package that included Emerson Etem, is a restricted free agent and is coming off a solid season where he scored 17 goals – you have to think his cap-hit is going to be at least $3 million. Jakob Silfverberg is also an RFA, and after a breakout post-season which saw the Swedish forward put up 18 points in 16 games, you got to think Anaheim would want to lock him up as well.
Things get even more interesting next season for the club. Goalies Frederik Andersen and John Gibson are going to hit restricted free agency, and you can bet both are due for sizable contracts. If that wasn’t enough, three of Anaheim’s young defenseman Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Simon Depres are also RFAs. If a team wants to throw a massive offer sheet on one of Anaheim’s younger players, they’ll be hard-pressed to match. The club doesn’t have any significant UFAs in 2016-17, so change could be coming to the Ducks young core.
This is the best-case scenario for the Oilers who were put in a tough position with Schultz hitting the RFA market. While the contract is an overpay, that’s fine since the Oilers didn’t commit significant term the defenseman.
When Schultz was on the free agent market, he was courted as a Paul Coffey-esque player with a very impressive offensive game. He has shown some offensive flair in the NHL, putting up back-to-back 30 point seasons, but that comes with a ton offensive zone starts (37.7%). The problem is, Schultz is not very good at defense. He’s a defenseman who needs to be paired with a partner who can shelter him. He played a majority of his minutes last season with Oscar Klefbom, a pairing that had some success. Should the Oilers see him fit for a top-pair role again (he played 22:37 minutes per game last season, which was too much) the team has a sturdy Andrej Sekera to possibly pair him with, although Schultz role is still up in the air.
With all that said, signing Schultz to a one-year deal was the right move. If he breaks out, the club will be faced with a good problem about his future, should be flounder, it’s easy to finally let go of him.