Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz asks for a trade

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Capitals defenseman Jeff Schultz has requested a trade, according to his agent, Jarrett Bousquet.

Frustrated by a lack of playing time for the second year in a row and limited communication from two separate Washington coaching staffs, former coach Dale Hunter and current coach Adam Oates, Schultz wants a fresh start elsewhere.

The trade request was initially made in mid-March, according to Bousquet. Schultz was hoping to be moved by the April 3 trade deadline, but that didn’t happen.

“Jeff would love to be there. He loves his teammates and the Capitals have been good to him over the years when they drafted him,” Bousquet said. “It’s just that now it’s to the point where playing in the National Hockey League takes precedence over not playing for [the Caps]. We feel for Jeff if he’s not going to be utilized in Washington that there are other teams that can utilize his talents elsewhere.”

Schultz, 27, was drafted by Washington in 2004 and has spent his entire career with the organization. But he hasn’t figured much in the team’s plans the past two seasons. Schultz was routinely a healthy scratch during this past lockout-shortened season. He appeared in just 26 of 48 games and none after March 31 or during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The year before Schultz appeared in 54 games out of 82 – though he did play in 10 of the Caps’ 14 playoff games in 2011-12.

“I think Jeff’s always made it known if he’s gonna be healthy scratched that he would like to play in the league,” Bousquet said. “He does have a good relationship with [McPhee] and has spoken with him and George has told him he wants to do what’s best for him. But saying and doing are two different things.”

Salary is an issue. Schultz signed a four-year, $11 million contract extension after the 2009-10 season when he led all NHL players in plus-minus (+50). And while that stat is of questionable value, that same year Schultz was on the ice for just 1.61 goals against/60 minutes. No other Caps player was better in that category and only three NHL blueliners who appeared in 70 games or more that season were below that number.

But the hard fact is Schultz counts $2.75 million against the salary cap for next year and that’s a lot for a player who is a consistent healthy scratch. It doesn’t help that the NHL salary cap is dropping to $64.3 million next season. Washington also has two pending unrestricted free agents in forwards Mike Ribeiro and Matt Hendricks and two restricted free agents due raises in defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Marcus Johansson and not much money to work with.   

“To see him drafted and to have played well for Washington, to see players just come in and be given the opportunity and Jeff left to rot there, it’s just not professional,” Bousquet said.  He later added: “It’s not logical to have that kind of cap hit and a player of his ability to be just sitting and watching night-in and night-out.”

Schultz had previously been a full-time player with 72 games in 2007-08, 64 in 2008-09, 73 in 2009-10 and 72 in 2010-11. That GA/60 number was a solid 2.27 in 2010-11 and 2.11 GA/60 in 2011-12. But he fell to a career-worst 2.92 in 2013. On a crowded left side of the blueline, Schultz was behind Karl Alzner, Jack Hillen and John Erskine.

And because Oates prefers not to move those players to the right and away from their natural side, that wasn’t an option for Schultz. So when injuries hit in early March, it was instead minor-leaguer Steve Oleksy who was recalled from AHL Hershey on March 5 to fill the right side. He never left the lineup, playing the final 28 games and all seven in the playoff series against the New York Rangers. Schultz and fellow defenseman Tom Poti were the usual healthy scratches.

Drafted No. 27 overall in 2004 – two spots ahead of fellow defenseman Mike Green and in the same draft class as star winger Alex Ovechkin – Schultz made his NHL debut on Dec. 22, 2006. Bousquet said he’s left it up to the Caps to actually make a deal for Schultz, but claims that there are teams that have expressed interest in his client and expressed surprise he wasn’t playing at all.

Schultz is already back home in his native Calgary and has begun his offseason training program. He has one year left on his contract and is an unrestricted free agent after next season.

“I don’t think George has tried that hard to trade him,” Bousquet said. “Because he’s only 27-years-old. When they signed him he was playing 20 minutes a night. He’s a good cap hit and he’s an every-day player. He’s played almost 400 games and [29] playoff games. He’s still a young guy. He can still learn and coaches can still work with him and develop him. Just to let him sit there and not play and not communicate with him and not trade him is extremely frustrating.”

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Brian McNally

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner