• Will Claude Noel Cost Daryl Katz $2MM?

    by  • April 6, 2014 • Hockey • 10 Comments

    Given that I’m a little more skeptical about Justin Schultz than most, I’ve greatly enjoyed his runs at bonuses over the past two seasons. The NHL’s collectively bargained bonus system is the second biggest mess in the CBA after the arbitration section. As a result of this (as well as Winnipeg’s weird hate-on for Dustin Byfuglien), we’re on the precipice of seeing something very interesting unfold.

    Let’s back up. It was reported last year that Schultz had a $2MM bonus for finishing in the top ten in goals for defencemen. He hit it in his last game (off an assist from Hall that, IIRC, ensured Hall hit a $2MM bonus as well) setting off an ecstatic celebration on the ice, while Daryl Katz probably muttered to himself about a $4MM goal on a team that was missing the playoffs. Again.

    Fast forward to this year and the Oilers are missing the playoffs. Again. Justin Schultz scored tonight against Anaheim to give him eleven goals on the season, pulling him into a tie for eleventh amongst defencemen.

    My understanding is that you can hit your bonus simply by tying for tenth place. Schultz sits a goal back of that. Send your eyes up the list though. See who’s in third place? That’s right. Dustin Byfuglien. He made headlines earlier this year with this:

    Hmm. The NHL has Dustin Byfuglien listed as being a defenceman when he’s been a forward since mid-January. So is Schultz tenth or is he eleventh? Byfuglien played more than half the season as a defenceman this year – that would tend to suggest that he’s a defenceman. That’s not really fair to Schultz though – Byfuglien has played 30 games up front or so. His goal total is likely higher than it would be if he was only a defenceman. If I was an arbitrator, I’d have difficulty with that.

    You could say “Fine, we’ll only count the goals that Byfuglien scored while playing defence.” Hilariously (to me), that total is ten goals. In other words, if you only count the goals that Byfuglien scored while playing defence, Schultz bumps up into tenth place. This strikes me as a fairer approach than factoring in the goals that Byfuglien scored while playing forward. It’s a bit troublesome though, in that it invites arbitrations on questions of whether or not a guy was a defenceman when he scored a goal. What’s Zdeno Chara when he’s standing in front of the net on the PP? Are those goals scored by a defenceman?

    It seems to me to be very likely to be a case with no precedent, nothing in the CBA that really straightens it out and arguments going each way. Oh, and there will be $2MM at stake and the league has an interest in the matter too. I have no idea what Katz is thinking about these bonuses but if it was me, I’d feel a vague sense of resentment about writing bonus cheques for a guy who has scored just enough goals to hit the bonus twice while not really bringing a whole lot else to the party. (As ever, I hasten to add that I’m not beating on the guy – still a young NHLer, defence take time, hasn’t had good partners, etc.)

    Maybe Schultz or someone else will score enough goals to render this moot, either by Schultz finishing in tenth or better, even taking Byfuglien into account, or finishing twelfth or lower. If he finishes eleventh though…well, it’s hard for me to see how there isn’t some sort of an argument.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com


    10 Responses to Will Claude Noel Cost Daryl Katz $2MM?

    1. daryl
      April 7, 2014 at

      Interesting read on Buff. As to the Schultz question, not ragging on him at all, but he’s getting paid bonuses that are in his contract. Perhaps Katz may want a word with whomever penned the contract?

    2. Romulus' Apotheosis
      April 7, 2014 at

      This is hilarious.

      I hope Justin’s agent is taking note.

      “I have no idea what Katz is thinking about these bonuses but if it was me, I’d feel a vague sense of resentment about writing bonus cheques for a guy who has scored just enough goals to hit the bonus twice while not really bringing a whole lot else to the party.”

      Couple of points.

      First, it sure sounds like the team from top to bottom (well, MacT and Eakins) are in love with Schultz and I’m not sure they share the altogether reasonable skepticism of many in the analytic community. Eakins plays him more than any other D on the team (both in overall TOI and at evens).



      And, he recently said Schultz was the team’s “most improved player.”

      And, here’s MacT talking about re-upping him (and Schultz saying he wants to stay) recently:

      ““It all depends on the number,” said MacTavish. “But if you’re asking me if I consider Justin Schultz in that skill-level potential, I do. I think he’s a terrific talent. His development has taken some steps this year — maybe in the last six weeks, in terms of really establishing himself as a guy who has a very, very high upside.””


      That could all just be mouthing nice for the press, but it seems likely that MacT genuinely thinks very highly of Schultz (this is hardly the only time he’s praised him).

      So, it’s possible the resentment from a performance POV isn’t there within the organization.

      However, it is also entirely possible that resentment is there from a dollars/cap/contract/management POV. This is, after all, the team that made damn sure to spite itself Corey Perry and a 1st in order to spite Mike Comrie over bonuses. jackholes.

    3. Triumph
      April 7, 2014 at

      Without the bonuses, they wouldn’t have the guy at all, probably – I’m not sure that his other suitors were willing to go max bonus. Boston’s going to get jammed up by bonus overages this year and it sure looks like they’re going to have to trade someone to even keep the rest of this year’s team together.

      The bonuses seem pretty stupid to me – I mean, I understand why they’re there, but I’m not sure they’re particularly good for teams. NJ has a policy of only giving out bonuses for games played, which could come to a head if they keep finishing low enough for high draft picks.

    4. Scrivy
      April 7, 2014 at

      Jultz is a wonderful point producing dman, it’s yet to be seen if he can play defense though.
      What would you think of bringing in a Matt Greene type to play defense and pairing him with Jultz?

      Love your articles Dellow. If I could ask, (I’m a new reader here), could you write some articles on current Oiler players and whether or not you would keep them on the team, and then conversely, which UFA’s would be good targets for the Oil this offseason? I’m curious about that.

      I loved your Benoit Pouliot analysis. Great unsung target. Tom Gilbert also.

    5. godot10
      April 7, 2014 at

      Justin Schultz has broken into the NHL, forced into a top 4D role, where his partner has been mostly Nick Schultz or some other 3 pairing or worse quality defensemen.

      It is nearly impossible to look good being thrown into the deep end like that without any help.

      And the fact is, he doesn’t remotely seem to be shellshocked or broken by the experience.

      So one can look at the glass as half empty, or one can look at it as half full.

    6. meane
      April 7, 2014 at

      Not only was Buff playing forward, but Big Z right behind him has 10 PPG’s of his 17 while mostly playing center on the power play unit, parking his enormous self in front of frustrated goaltenders.

    7. Flips
      April 7, 2014 at

      Of course, we can never know how many goals he “would have” scored had he still be playing D the whole time. The NHL might be inclined to argue that he would have kept on his goal scoring pace, or at least at the same pace he historically has (which would likely be at least 2-3 goals, putting him above Schultz still).

    8. April 7, 2014 at

      It’ll be interesting to see what how Byfuglien is classified at the end of the season, but for what it’s worth, the split is even more nuanced than your article describes.

      Even after the move to forward, Dustin Byfuglien still frequently plays defense on the Jets’ power play. He now effectively plays both forward and defense in each game, spending his even strength ice time as a forward and his PP ice time as a defenseman.

      While Byfuglien has indeed scored 10 goals since his move to forward, three of them have come on the power play – where Byfuglien still lines up as a defenseman – so his total as a defenseman still eclipses Schultz’s total.

      Not sure how the official classification will shake out but just wanted to point out that Byfuglien is still not a full-time forward. Anyway…another goal or two out of Schultz and this won’t matter much…

      • pi_pfreek
        April 8, 2014 at

        And another of his goals since the January move was in OT… where he was playing D. So that’s a total of 14 goals as a “defenseman” over the season.. or so I would argue if I was Katz

    9. beingbobbyorr
      April 7, 2014 at

      The other bugaboo about this kind of bonus is that it’s based on absolute number of G/A/P, and theoretically — depending on their playoff position — a team can start to play the player in question less toward the end of the season to scuttle his ability to hit (absolute number) bonus thresholds.

      I wonder if these bonuses would be better (for both player & mgmt) if they were

      a) normalized for time. i.e., G/A/P per 60 ES

      b) based on being above a certain point on the league-wide distribution. i.e., take those G/A/P per 60 ES stats for all the defensemen in the league for the season in question, and stuff them in a 20-bin (5% increments) histogram. If our boy (Justin Schultz in this case) is above the 67% percentile, he gets a bonus of $X, if above the 85% percentile, he gets a bonus of $Y, and if above the 95% percentile (Norris territory), he gets a bonus of $Z . . . or something like that. Player agents in particular should like that rather than having to be >= Nth on the list.

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