The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/26/12 at 01:12 AM ET
The Red Wings wouldn’t normally even consider telling a player who has yet to suit up for a professional game that, should he sign with Detroit, he could expect to start the season on the Wings’ NHL roster, but this isn’t a normal year for the Wings, and MLive’s Ansar Khan and the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness both report that Red Wings GM Ken Holland is in fact pursuing the 21-year-old unrestricted free agent despite his high cap hit ($3.8 million including bonuses) and his agents’ requests for ensured playing time:
“We’ve contacted his agents to express the Detroit Red Wings are interested in signing him to a contract,’’ general manager Ken Holland told M-Live.com. “We think there’s a tremendous opportunity in Detroit.’‘
Many teams will be making a pitch for Schultz, a tremendously gifted offensive defenseman who some believe is ready to be a top-four NHL defenseman without having played a game as a pro.
Opportunity, not money, will be the deciding factor in securing Schultz. The Red Wings are prepared to guarantee him a roster spot at the start of the season, something every team that pursues him will need to do. Schultz’s contract will be the same wherever he goes. He is restricted to a two-year entry-level deal with a base salary of $925,000. His team must make a $3.8 million salary-cap commitment, however, due to potential bonuses, many of which are not realistically attainable. His AHL salary would be $67,500. So it’s clear why he wouldn’t want to spend any time in the minors if he doesn’t have to.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Schultz, who turns 22 on July 6, is expected to meet with his agents in Toronto on Tuesday and begin considering offers. He can’t sign until July 1.
Schultz, a right-handed shooter, has good hockey sense and puck-moving ability. He has a tremendous shot and can quarterback a power play. He had 18 goals and 44 points in 37 games this past season; 40 goals and 113 points in 121 games over three seasons.
“I like that he’s 22 (soon), he skates well, he’s close to being an NHL defenseman,’’ Holland said. “We’re prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team. With the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom (retirement) and Brad Stuart (signed with San Jose), there’s a tremendous opportunity. We’re trying to rebuild on the fly. We think he would be a good fit.’‘
Schultz and Red Wings’ top defense prospect Brendan Smith were teammates at Wisconsin for one season. The Red Wings expect Smith, who played 17 games in Detroit this past season, to be in their everyday lineup in 2012-13. Holland said he would have no qualms about having two rookie defensemen in his top six.
As Khan notes, the Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Oilers, Rangers, Senators, Flyers and likely another, oh, 21 teams not named Schultz’s initial rights-holder, the Anaheim Ducks, are pursuing him, and Schultz is definitely going to be the last, “Best player outside the NHL” to land a rookie cap max deal like this, so this is really a case of a team selling him on the opportunity to play for a superb organization over the long haul with an immediate chance to earn an NHL spot.
The Macomb Daily’s Pleiness confirms Holland’s stance, and I guess given the fact that Mike Babcock’s at least willing to suggest that Damien Brunner will start training camp among the Wings’ top six forwards, we shouldn’t totally be surprised here:
“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.”
[T]he 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.
And if I may be so bold?
This is the kind of bold talk Holland needs to display to “sell” Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, the real Alex Semin or whoever else the Wings will pursue upon joining a team that is willing to take some chances in order to ensure that they remain the premier destination for free agents of any and every age.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.