In his journey home following the fall of Troy, the Greek mythological hero Odysseus was faced with an impossible choice at the Strait of Messina. On one side of the tight channel of water between Sicily and the Italian mainland was Scylla, a six-headed monster known for snatching up sailors directly from the hulls of their ship. On the other side was Charybdis, a whirlpool that sucks in and drowns ships of all sizes. Odysseus knew the only way home was to go through, so he had to pick a way. After much consideration, he selected to sail closer to Scylla’s side, and while the ship made it through, the monster gobbled up six members of Odysseus’ crew. No matter which way he picked, it was going to be bad.
The Golden Knights are headed towards their own Strait of Messina with the contract situation of Jimmy Schuldt. The 24-year-old Hobey Baker finalist selected Vegas, among a reported 30 offers, and signed his NHL regulated entry-level contract. He joined the team for a month, played in one game, and then had to watch from the press box as he was ineligible to participate in either the NHL or AHL playoffs. His contract expired following the season now just two days away from the start of Rookie Camp (three from on-ice), Schuldt remains without a second contract.
As Schuldt’s “ship” sails towards City National Arena, there’s Scylla, signing a contract too early and giving up money, on one side and Charybdis, holding out and missing the start of camp, on the other.
Schuldt is in the worst spot a player can be in negotiation-wise under the current CBA. He’s a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, meaning he can only negotiate with the Golden Knights (he’s not even eligible for an offer sheet) and he doesn’t have the ability to allow a 3rd party arbitrator to decide on a contract like other RFAs with more NHL service time. Thus, his only true leverage in negotiation is withholding his services. In other words, holding out of training camp.
That being said, missing camp for Schuldt is not like missing camp for Shea Theodore or William Nylander last year, or Mitch Marner this year. Schuldt hasn’t yet proven himself on the NHL level, and with a roster spot wide open, he needs to be in rookie games, preseason games, and in training camp to win the job.
By NHL rule, Schuldt cannot participate in any official team activities without signing a contract. So even if he wanted to come and prove himself before he signs the deal, the CBA forbids it.
Then there are the Golden Knights, who spent the entire offseason selling off pieces in order to become cap compliant. What they are left with is a roster still fully capable of winning the Stanley Cup, but in need of significant contribution from at least one rookie blueliner. Schuldt currently represents the best option to be that contributor. Scylla, signing Schuldt to an overpaid deal when he has no leverage, is on one side, and Charybdis, watching their best defensive prospect miss camp over less than 1% of the salary cap is on the other.