The Washington Capitals signed defender Justin Schultz to a two-year, $8 million contract on the first day of free agency, squeezing them to top of the salary cap. Schultz will likely play on the second pairing and is believed to be a perfect fit for the new system Peter Laviolette is introducing to the team.
“Talking to Peter, we could try him both with Dillon and Orly. We’ve got some flexibility now,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We really like his offensive potential. His ability to join the rush. His ability to quarterback a power play. I think Peter’s teams activate defense aggressively. So we were trying to find a guy that fit that bill for him.”
Tuesday, Schultz met with Capitals media for the first time (after having computer problems) and spoke about his possible role.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 13, 2020
“They explained to me where I would fit in, joining the offense and trying to play that game with the D-men joining,” Schultz said. “It was very exciting to hear that because it’s one of my strengths.”
Schultz got a close look at playing a Peter Laviolette-coached team during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Schultz, then a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, lifted the Stanley Cup for a second time but only after dispatching Lavy’s Predators in six hard-fought games.
“Obviously, in Nashville they had a lot of great defensemen,” Schultz said. “They were always joining the attack and being involved in the rushes and the offense. They played hard and defended hard. His teams are always very tough to play against, especially in that Final against Nashville. So just excited to be playing under him and looking forward to it.”
Schultz is currently in Kelowna, British Columbia, preparing for next season and is doing mostly off-ice work. The 30-year-old blueliner will later skate with a bunch of local NHL’ers like Luke Schenn, Mike Smith, Jake Virtenen, Tyler Myers, and Andrew Ladd as the new season approaches.
When he travels to DC for training camp, Schultz will know a few players in the locker room.
“Hags reached out to me right away to congratulate me,” he said. “I know Brenden Dillon a little bit, he was pretty close to me in Vancouver. We played World Championships together in Sweden. They both said a great group of guys, great team, and they’re excited for me and they know I’ll love it there and fit right in.”
During the chat, Schultz revealed that he is especially intrigued with a role on the Capitals power play, where he could earn playing time on the second unit.
“Obviously, the power play is one of my strengths so hopefully I get an opportunity on there, whether it’s first or second unit,” Schultz said. Then he joked, “it’ll definitely be nice getting to feed [Alex Ovechkin] the one-timers as opposed to standing there and taking them.”
Days earlier, another Caps addition, Henrik Lundqvist, revealed that he talked to Ovechkin over the phone and the two came to an understanding: he would never participate in one-timer drills with Ovi during practice.
“His shot is just way too hard,” Lundqvist said.
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