Washington Capitals: Was Justin Schultz Signed To Be Taken In The Expansion Draft?

Justin Schultz, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Justin Schultz, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Last offseason the Washington Capitals seemed to try to “load up”. After a disappointing showing in the bubble in last years playoffs the team made several big and unexpected moves. They signed Henrik Lundqvist, Zdeno Chara and even got smaller signings like Conor Sheary. They were also able to sign defenseman Justin Schultz.

Washington also signed Trevor van Riemsdyk that same offseason.

They signed three defenseman in the same offseason. They added three guys to a list of guys that includes John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen as well as some promising young guys, notably Martin Fehervary, Alexander Alexeyev and at the time Jonas Siegenthaler.

You can never have too many defensemen, a thought and theory that I guess the Capitals took to heart last year. That could easily be a mindset that the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken could have when they select their team through the expansion draft on Wednesday the 21st of July.

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After the protected lists came out earlier this week the Capitals have at least a couple of intriguing options for the Kraken. Possibly no better option than Justin Schultz.

Schultz is 31-years-old next season, plays on the right side, right handed and put up points and play some good D. While watching the Capitals I tended to not notice Schultz too often in the defensive zone, at least compared to others. I tend to think if I notice a defensemen in the defensive zone too much then you’re probably making too many mistakes. I didn’t notice Schultz too much.

Schultz is a very good defenseman with a cap hit of $4m. A pretty good cap hit for a guy like him. That was a pay cut from his previous contract that he signed with the Penguins in 2017 that was a $5.5m cap hit.

His contract also has just one year left on it. Washington signed him for last season and this season. This next season being the first year of the Kraken. A contract that length you have to think was this a guy signed with the intention of exposing him in the expansion draft?

You know that after every signing and every roster decision teams make a year or two out from an expansion draft they think about this kind of thing. They have to think about how does this affect our team for the upcoming shake up?

The Capitals front office probably thought they have a lot of guys they don’t want to lose in an expansion draft so lets bring in a guy who can help us this upcoming season. If we win with him then terrific, if we lose then we took our shot and we move on an expose him in the draft. He’s an enticing player, dangling him will maybe prevent Seattle from taking someone we are more dedicated too.

If Seattle selects Schultz then that means they won’t take anyone from the Capitals fourth line, a line that is very, very effective for the Capitals. If they take Schultz they won’t get Sheary, someone who could be a very effective depth scorer for the Caps. They also can’t take defensemen that we maybe like more, like Brenden Dillon or Nick Jensen.

Maybe most important for the Caps is if Schultz is out there, someone who can be a very good defenseman for your expansion team maybe they don’t take Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek had a very good rookie season after he was thrown into the fire after Lundqvist had his health issues and Ilya Samsonov had his COVID issues.

Do the Capitals want to lose Vanecek? Do they want to lose a young goalie who proved he can play at the highest level? Can they lose him? Do you trust Samsonov? Samsonov is a very good young goalie, but he hasn’t been there for you much. If you learn going forward you can’t trust one guy, maybe you go to the other young guy who is maybe more trustworthy.

Now, Justin Schultz was signed before this “goalie controversy” was a thing, if it even is a thing. But this is why you sign a guy like Schultz before an expansion draft. It’s hard to pass up on a defenseman like Schultz. Even if you don’t want him on your team, your team being the Kraken. Then you can draft him and flip him to another team and get some assets for him.

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I obviously have no idea if this was the reason the Capitals signed Schultz last year. However, signing him to a two year deal and leaving him exposed, while other guys got protected? You have to at least wonder if signing him to expose him was the plan all along.