DETROIT – Defenseman Justin Schultz hasn’t played a game in the National Hockey League, but that’s not stopping the Wings from all but guaranteeing the soon-to-be free agent a spot on their roster.
“He’s close to being an NHL defenseman,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He’s a young player. We’re prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team.”
Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6 and played three seasons at Wisconsin, was drafted by Anaheim in 2008 prior to starting college, 43rd overall, but couldn’t reach a deal with the Ducks, who had until Sunday before he could begin talks on a contract with any other team.
And the Wings seem prepared to get a deal done.
“We’ve expressed we’re interested in signing him to a contract,” said Holland, who plans to meet with his agents (Don Meehan and Pat Morris) either Tuesday or Wednesday. “We think he’s a good prospect. We think there’s a tremendous opportunity in Detroit.
“With the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, there’s a tremendous opportunity,” Holland added. “We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. We think he would be a good fit.”
If a deal gets done, Schultz can’t official sign until July 1, which is the first day of free agency.
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.
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.
Schultz (6-2, 185 pounds) is a highly skilled offensive defenseman that analysts say has good hockey sense. He’s a good skater, has the ability to move the puck and has a tremendous shot.
Schultz is also a right-handed shot. Ian White is the only other blueliner on the roster that shoots right.