DETROIT – Chris Chelios, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year, likes what he has seen from Wisconsin defenseman Justin Schultz.
“I’ve seen him play against Michigan State a couple of times and I’ve seen him play in a couple of tournaments,” Chelios said. “He’s a big, strong kid with a real heavy shot.”
Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6, became an unrestricted free agent on Monday and can start talking to teams about a contract, but can’t be signed until July 1.
Schultz is a two-time Hobey Baker finalist and WCHA defensive player of the year. He totaled 40 goals and 73 assists in 121 games over three seasons with the Badgers.
The Wings have had their share of Wisconsin defensemen including Brendan Smith, who was Schultz’s teammate in 2009-10, and Chelios (1981-’83).
“You’ll never know until he does it, but with his size, his strength and his skating ability, if he’s not ready he’s really darn close,” Chelios said. “College is a lot different than the NHL. The jump from college to the AHL is a lot easier. Physically there’s no question he’s ready.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland said Monday that they’re ready to give Schultz, a two-time Hobey Baker finalist, the opportunity to play in Detroit.
“With the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, there’s a tremendous opportunity,” Holland said. “We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. We think he would be a good fit.”
Money won’t be an issue in the negotiations since the maximum entry-level contract for a 22-year-old is two years for $925,000 per season with a standard 10-percent signing bonus. The only question would be if he’ll be guaranteed a spot on the roster.
And the Wings seem prepared to at least offer him a spot on the roster once training camp breaks.