The Vancouver Canucks could target Edmonton Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz. Is Sven Baertschi the right player for a trade?
If you ask 1,000 Vancouver Canucks fans where the team has it’s biggest need, 999 will say it’s on defence. One lied about being a Canucks fan.
Edmonton Oilers blueliner Justin Schultz is probably not the answer to all of the Canucks’ defensive woes, but he could be a great step in the right direction. Luckily, it seems like he is available.
Schultz, a 25-year-old right-handed defenceman, has spent the past four seasons with the Oilers organization. He started his professional career with Edmonton’s former American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, where he scored 18 goals along with 30 assists for 48 points in 34 games. Those numbers earned him a spot in the NHL lineup, and he hasn’t left since.
In the NHL, Schultz has 28 goals and 100 points in 239 contests. That’s clearly not as good as his college or AHL numbers, but we have to remember that he is now playing against the world’s elite in the best league there is. Looking at Schultz’s HERO chart, courtesy of OwnThePuck.com, we can see that he still produces at an elite level.
The big issue is the defensive side of his game. Schultz plays top-pairing minutes in Edmonton, and he spends a large chunk of that time in the defensive zone. His Corsi Against per 60 of 55.9 ranks 17th among all Oilers skaters and eighth among Oilers defencemen.
Here’s to hoping he could turn it around with a change of scenery. But even if he can’t, Schultz’s offensive abilities could certainly help the Canucks. At the very least, he would be a very nice upgrade on Yannick Weber, who will be an unrestricted free agent following this season.
Trading for Schultz
The Canucks could hope to sign Schultz via an offer sheet in the summer, paying a second-round pick as compensations. But, chances are, Edmonton will have traded him somewhere else by then.
Now, in order to acquire Schultz from Edmonton via trade, the Oilers would have to find someone or something in the Canucks organization they would be interested in. I gave it some thought.
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The Oilers have not qualified for the playoffs since 2006, which resulted in a ton of high draft picks for the club. However, they can’t find a way out of the basement of the standings. What they need is an NHL player who can help the club immediately, not another draft pick.
Goalie Cam Talbot just signed a three-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season. Believe it or not, the Oilers are no longer looking for a starting goaltender — the Canucks wouldn’t be able to offer one, anyway.
Defence has long been the Edmonton’s biggest weakness, like it is now for the Canucks. However, the Oilers’ 2016-17 defence will most likely be composed of Andrej Sekera, Andrew Ference, Mark Fayne, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Griffin Reinhart and Brandon Davidson. Plus, perhaps, restricted free agent Adam Clendening. Again, believe it or not, the Oilers’ defence is set as well.
That leaves us with one position: forwards. And there is one Canuck the Oilers could well be interested in: Sven Baertschi.
Why the Canucks Would Do it
Baertschi has just started to find some chemistry with Bo Horvat, and he is starting to produce at the NHL level. So why should he even be considered as trade bait?
To make it short: Baertschi still isn’t that good, and he isn’t better than Emerson Etem, who could easily take Baertschi’s spot in the lineup.
Looking at the Baertschi versus Etem WARRIOR chart, you will notice two things.
- Baertschi and Etem are nearly identical in both production and possession stats.
- Baertschi’s possession impact is similar to that of Schultz, while Schultz produces at a much higher level.
The Canucks could live without Baertschi and Radim Vrbata in their top six. Brandon Sutter could move back to the Sedins’ right wing, Hansen could slot in beside Horvat, with Etem, Jared McCann or Jake Virtanen on the other wing. Then, the Canucks could still sign a free agent — may I suggest Milan Lucic? — to fill a top-six role.
I have always liked Baertschi, but he still doesn’t look like someone who can produce at a level that should be expected from a top-six forward. He is still just 23, though, and has a lot of potential.
Much more importantly, the Canucks need help on defence, and Schultz could provide that. Possible D-pairings for next season could look like this:
Alexander Edler — Christopher Tanev
Luca Sbisa — Justin Schultz
Ben Hutton — Alex Biega
That defence is still far away from elite, but it will be even worse without Schultz.
Why the Oilers Would Do it
If Baertschi isn’t good enough for a top-six role, why would the Oilers want him? It’s quite easy. Baertschi is still just 23 years old. He has at least four years ahead of him before he will hit his prime, and he has a lot of scoring potential. He just needs to find a way to show that consistently.
Being drafted by the Calgary Flames, traded to the Vancouver Canucks, then traded to the Edmonton Oilers would be an unusual career path. But, he could help the Oilers.
Edmonton’s top six could look like this:
Taylor Hall — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Leon Draisaitl
Sven Baertschi — Connor McDavid — Jordan Eberle
McDavid is already an elite playmaker who could be exactly what Baertschi needs to take his game to the next level. If the experiment failed, the Oilers could still swap Baertschi and Nail Yakupov.
For both teams, the trade would include some risk, but the reward could be extremely high. Edmonton wants to get rid of Schultz while Vancouver needs talented defencemen. Therefore, it is a risk both teams should be willing to take.
The Big Catch
But there is a catch: Schultz currently has a cap hit of $3.9 million. If the Canucks acquired him, they would have to make an identical qualifying offer to maintain his rights after this season. But Schultz doesn’t seem worth that money anymore.
On the bright side, Schultz will turn 26 in the summer and might be interested in a long-term deal instead of accepting the one-year qualifying offer. In that case, the Canucks could try to push his annual average down by signing him to something like a four-year, $12 million deal.
Disregarding that little catch, Baertschi and Schultz should have about equal value. Two offensively gifted players who have some defensive struggles. Both are in their mid-twenties. Both have a lot of potential. Both can help their new teams.
So, it all comes down to what the Canucks would be willing to pay for a defenceman who might be nothing more than a slightly better Yannick Weber.
Would you trade Sven Baertschi to Edmonton for Justin Schultz? Let us know in the comments!