With the signing of restricted free agent, Troy Brouwer, to a 2 year, $2.35 million dollar per year contract, the Capitals looked to be over $1.8 million in violation of the NHL salary cap for the 2011-2012 season. While clubs are allowed to carry up to 10% over the $64.3 million salary cap during the off-season, they must meet the cap before the start of the regular season. Then, the Capitals traded Eric Fehr and his $2.2 million cap hit to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a prospect (Danick Paquette) and a fourth-round draft pick. Now, with an estimated $394,872 in cap space and restricted free agent defenseman, Karl Alzner, still hanging out there, some moves have to be made for the Washington Capitals to comply with the salary cap and sign Alzner.
I have never understood why the Caps continue to tout Jeff Schultz as a top-2, defense talent in the NHL. Nevertheless, they have and Schultz has seen significant time in the last three seasons. During the statistically anomalous 2009-2010 season, Schultz posted a league leading, 50 plus/minus rating while placing 5th on the Caps roster, in average time on ice per game (19:51). That plus/minus is the number all of the Schultz supporters cling to when making their case. In the 2010-2011 season, when the Capitals focused more on defense and his usual partner, Mike Green, missed significant time to injury, Schultz struggled. Most damning were the amount of 5-on-5 goals against given up by the Capitals while Schultz was on the ice. If you throw out Tyler Sloan, Tom Poti, and Dennis Wideman, Jeff Schultz led Caps defensemen at 2.27 goals against per 60 minutes of play, during the 2010-2011 regular season. As already mentioned, 2009-2010 was an anomaly and Schultz’s 5-on-5 goals against reflected at 1.61 per 60 minutes. Historically, you can bet on Sarge to give up at least 2 goals per 60 minutes as his 2008-2009 and 2007-2008 numbers were 2.49 and 2.29, respectively. Some folks will probably say, “But the Caps often use him against the opposition’s better forwards, in a shutdown role. Of course his numbers will be worse.”
Have you actually watched him play?
For a player with such an advantage in size, Schultz routinely gets worked along the walls, in the corners, and in front of the net by opposing forwards. As a shutdown guy, he should be dominating those areas of the ice with his 6 foot 6 inch, 230 pound frame. Jeff Schultz is not the best skater or handler of the puck so, if he’s not going to use his size to be a strong, stay at home defenseman, what is he doing with the 19-plus minutes per game he is given by the Caps coaching staff?
He’s “earning” his $2.75 million a year contract. That number wouldn’t be so bad if Schultz consistently showed that he is that steady, shutdown defenseman that the Caps proclaim him to be. During the 2010-2011 season, he was relegated to top-4 status as Mike Green suffered through injuries and the Carlson-Alzner defense pair was promoted. Heading into next season, Jeff Schultz is not worth that salary cap hit as the Capitals will most likely continue to increase the responsibilities and minutes of John Carlson and Karl Alzner. In order to do that, the Caps have to get Alzner signed and shed enough of the payroll to get under the salary cap before the season starts. It’s time to trade Jeff Schultz.
Given Jeff Schultz’s inconsistent performance, it will be hard to move his contract. However, there might be some NHL clubs willing to take on that salary cap hit plus a Caps pick or prospect, to add defensive depth to their roster. We have already seen George McPhee’s talents in pulling off some astonishing trades (i.e., Semyon Varlamov to Colorado). Also, it seems that the organization is finally willing to let go of some of the rebuild players. There is no doubt, getting rid of the remaining 3 seasons of Jeff Schultz’s $2.75 million per year contract would certainly free up some cash to make a valid offer to Karl Alzner.
Salary cap information was obtained from CapGeek.com. Stats were obtained from behindthenet.ca.