Jim Rutherford strikes again.
The Pens general manager, always an active player near the NHL’s trade deadline, pulled the lever on a trade with the Edmonton Oilers to acquire blueliner Justin Schultz in exchange for a 2016 third-round pick.
“We were trying to add some depth to our defense and we’re very pleased to add (Schultz),” Rutherford said. “We’re hoping that a change of scenery will be good.”
Schultz, who will not arrive in Pittsburgh until either Wednesday or Thursday due to immigration assortments, is a gifted and talented offensive defenseman. He’s a smooth skater that has great vision and can make crisp breakout passes.
But his struggles in his own end are an area that the Pens would like to see him improve.
“He’s very good on the offensive side. He still needs some work on the defensive side,” Rutherford said.
Schultz’s offensive talents should be a perfect fit under head coach Mike Sullivan’s system, the crux of which is built on speed and strong breakouts of the defensive zone.
“Different teams have different approaches,” Rutherford said. “Our approach was to go with more speed, more transition game from our backend. This is a player that will be able to help that.”
The deal took a week to come together. Schultz has one year remaining on his contract and the Oilers will retain half of his $3.9-million dollar cap hit.
“It was important for them to retain salary because we have to be careful with our cap,” Rutherford said.
Schultz, 25, has played three-plus years with Edmonton, totaling 28 goals and 101 points in 248 career NHL games. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound right-hander was one of the NHL’s top rookies in 2012-13, making the NHL All-Rookie Team after scoring eight goals and 27 points in 48 games with the Oilers.
Schultz played four years of college hockey at Wisconsin from 2009-12 and was an NCAA All-American and Hobey Baker finalist (best college hockey player) in each of his final two seasons.
The acquisition of Schultz will help bolster the team’s depth on the blue line, which is especially needed now with Ben Lovejoy out with a longer-term upper-body injury.
With the NHL’s trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m. the Pens are still players. That does not mean another deal is imminent. But Rutherford is keeping his options open.
“We’re still in business,” Rutherford said. “Why would we close the door when we still have a couple of more days (until the trade deadline). You never know what will come up.”