Which Justin do you prefer in fantasy hockey – Faulk or Schultz?
There was a lot of positive response to my recent Cage Match pitting Dougie Hamilton against Jacob Trouba, so I'll focus this week on another pair of young rearguards – Justin Faulk and Justin Schultz. It's safe to say that both have fallen at least somewhat short of lofty expectations in their brief NHL careers; but is either one poised for a big breakout soon, and which one is the better for your league?
Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications
I was surprised to look back and realize that Faulk was only a second round pick (37th overall) for the Hurricanes in 2010. But Carolina quickly realized the talent that had fallen into its lap, and Faulk was in the NHL to stay by the 2011-12 season. Fast forward to now and Faulk has played 180 NHL games and, perhaps most impressively, was a member of Team USA in the Sochi Olympics before he even turned 22 (although for what it's worth he was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the tournament and played less than ten combined minutes in the two final games).
Schultz is nearly two years older than Faulk but has played in 58 fewer games. Much of that has to do with Schultz's well documented draft and contract history, which saw him selected 43rd overall by the Ducks back in 2008, go unsigned for nearly four years, then deregister from college in the spring of 2012 and become a free agent after the Ducks were unable to come to terms with him during their 30 day signing window. Schultz had many suitors, ultimately signing a two year deal with the Oilers that had him in the NHL to stay on opening day of 2012-13.
For 2013-14, both players technically had salary cap hits of less than $1M, with Faulk's ($0.84M) being just a bit lower than Schultz's ($0.925M). But Schultz's overall two year deal ended up paying him more than $7.5M, thanks in large part to bonuses, while Faulk had more meager bonuses and only ended up earning $2.7M on his initial deal.
Faulk is already signed for the next six seasons on a deal that brings with it a $4.83M yearly cap hit, while Schultz is an RFA this summer. With Edmonton in need of all the rearguard talent it can get, and Schultz's camp having already demonstrated shrewd negotiation, Schultz could well end up with a deal that rivals Faulk's. Those in cap leagues should watch this situation closely.