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Schultz Done With Penguins: What Kind Of Market Is Out There For Him?

Jim Rutherford confirmed the Pittsburgh Penguins let defenseman Justin Schultz leave. The question will now be what market there is for him?

Justin Schultz Penguins

If there was ever any doubt that Justin Schultz would be potentially moving on and not returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins next season, that doubt has all but been erased thanks to recent comments by Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.

Speaking with Mike DeFabo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rutherford confirmed the Penguins won’t be investing another year in the defenseman. Rutherford said, “We’ll move on from Justin.  He’s going to do better in the marketplace than what he can do here, based on our cap situation.”

Schultz may do better in the market than the Penguins were willing to give, but is there really a market for an offensive defenseman who wasn’t terribly strong on offense?

Schultz Has Struggled on the Ice

Schultz will be an interesting piece to watch in the free agent market. Now an unrestricted free agent, he’s coming off a season where he made $5.5 million with the Penguins. While he scored 51 points in 78 games for the Penguins in his first full season after he joined the team, he’s not done anything close in production since. In fact, his production dropped considerably after signing a lucrative three-year contract.

That can’t bode well for him in a market that won’t be kind to players who didn’t produce. If nothing else, this season’s free agent conversations will repeatedly include the phrase, ‘What have you done lately?’.

For Schultz, the answer is not much.

Schultz Could Really Struggle to Sign a Strong Deal

With so many players likely to have to take a hit on salary, that the Penguins have decided not to even extend a low-ball offer is telling. As such, it will be intriguing to see how much of a pay cut Schultz ends up having to take with another team.

Could he go from a $5.5 million defenseman to one that has trouble finding employment in the NHL next season? His injury history and the fact that he barely surpassed his 2017-18 totals in the past three seasons combined make it hard to envision any team giving him a lucrative deal. Some clubs may overlook him completely.

At the same time, he is a right-shot defenseman who has an offensive side to his game when he’s playing well. That position is coveted in the NHL.

Schultz may have to do what he did when he signed in Pittsburgh in the first place, and that is land a one-year deal and prove he’s still worth something. In 2016-17, he parlayed a $1.4 million contract into a $5.5 million deal. Can he do something similar again?

Next: Oilers Among Six Teams Inquiring About Goaltender Matt Murray

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