The Flyers announced today that Nick Schultz has been signed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract extension. With a crop of promising young defensive talent still developing in the minors, this could be a very smart move on the Flyers part, at least for the near future.
The 32-year-old has played far better than what was expected. Before the season, he was signed to a one-year deal to be the 7th defenseman and be an extra body. He has been much more than that, receiving more minutes for his good play and providing a strong veteran presence on the ice. His resurgence in his game could have landed him a job elsewhere in free agency, so it is good the Flyers locked him up.
His salary cap number is not too bad, considering some of the large contracts the Flyers have to deal with, Vincent Lecavalier and Andrew MacDonald to name a few. They sometimes tend to overpay and overvalue players who are essentially depth guys, such as the aforementioned MacDonald. It does not appear that they are making that mistake a second time, given that they only re-signed Schultz for two more seasons. For $2.25 million per season, he is not breaking the bank.
The pros for signing Schultz are very clear. The only con that most will point to right away is his age and his average numbers over his career. With Robert Hagg, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim being the future, an older journeyman-type defenseman does not seem to make much sense to sign to a contract extension, especially with the Flyers needing to find some youth on the blue line. However, these guys are still very young, especially Sanheim. The 2014 NHL Draft first round pick is only 18 years old and still needs to adjust the bigger, faster game of the NHL. Give these players time to grow into what they are projected to be. They will be called up in time. Schultz is obviously not a long-term answer, and the Flyers realize that. He is a stop-gap for the time being.
This team needs to overhaul its defense, but it will not happen overnight. Someone has to stick around, and it makes sense for Schultz to be that guy. The next step should be re-signing Michael Del Zotto, who has also found new life with the Flyers after a disappointing 2013-14 season in Nashville. He has provided a much-needed offensive spark and is still in his prime. While his name has been mentioned in recent trade rumors, keeping him around for the rebuild would not hurt.