Canucks 2020 free agent targets: Defenceman Justin Schultz

The Vancouver Canucks may need to add another blueliner or two this offseason. Justin Schultz of the Pittsburgh Penguins should be on their radar.

Tyler Myers is the only Vancouver Canucks’ blueliner that is signed for the 2021-22 season, though it’s only a matter of time until rookie sensation Quinn Hughes accompanies him there.

Chris Tanev and Oscar Fantenberg are pending UFAs. Troy Stecher will be an RFA. The contracts of both Alexander Edler and Jordie Benn expire next year. And there’s no guarantee that Jett Woo and/or Olli Juolevi will be ready for the NHL in the near future.

General manager Jim Benning probably won’t retain Fantenberg, and given his cap situation, and he could very well lose one of Tanev or Stecher. Ideally, at least one of those two would take a hometown discount to stay.

If one of them leaves, Benning will have to look for a capable replacement. And if he can create some cap space by moving out some bad contracts (which I wrote about here), the sixth-year GM might find a solution in free agency.

The Canucks don’t have enough cap space to chase the big fish, Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug. Tyson Barrie and Sami Vatanen will probably be a bit too pricey for Vancouver’s liking, too. But there is one name that stands out; somebody the Canucks could get on a bargain deal.

That would be veteran blueliner and B.C. kid Justin Schultz, who was instrumental in helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.

The 29-year-old displays smooth skating and superb puck-moving abilities. Schultz is three years removed from a career-high 51-point season. He has hit 30-plus points three times in his career, though he’s been hampered by injuries over the past three seasons.

Before the season went on pause, Schultz had 12 points in 46 games. He only hit the back of the net three times, but he’s also been the victim of bad puck luck. Schultz owns a career 6.3 shooting percentage, but it stands at just 3.5 percent here in 2019-20.

Given his declining production and recent injury history, Schultz might not find a long-term contract that he could have landed two or three years ago. If this is the case, the Canucks have a prime opportunity to get him on a cheap deal.

Though Schultz only owns a career 48.5 Corsi For percentage, it’s been above 50 percent in four of his five seasons with the Penguins. He’s also capable of chewing up 20-plus minutes a night when the occasion calls for it.

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Add everything up, and Schultz looks like the ideal target for the Canucks in free agency, especially if they lose Tanev and/or Stecher. Benning needs to construct a blue line for the future (2021-22 and beyond), and Schultz checks off most of the boxes here. If Schultz’s price is reasonable, the Canucks need to do everything they can to land him.

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