Free agency doesn't officially begin until July 1, but on Monday, teams were able to start contacting defenseman Justin Schultz. The reason for this is because Schultz withdrew from Wisconsin last month and didn't agree to a deal with the Anaheim Ducks, the team that drafted him in 2008, during an exclusive 30-day negotiating window. Schultz is now an unrestricted free agent, and although he can't officially sign with a team until July 1, the Schultz sweepstakes is officially underway.
As expected, the Detroit Red Wings are one of the many teams interested in Schultz, and they started pursuing him on Monday, according to MLive's Ansar Khan. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland thinks a "tremendous opportunity" exists for Schultz in Detroit.
"We've contacted his agents to express the Detroit Red Wings are interested in signing him to a contract," general manager Ken Holland told MLive.com. "We think there's a tremendous opportunity in Detroit."
Schultz, who will turn 22 on July 6, may be fresh out of college, but he is viewed as an NHL-ready defenseman by most. Since his contract is set in stone with $925,000 in base salary and a total cap hit of $3.8 million after bonuses, money won't play a role in where he ends up signing. Rather, an opportunity to play in the NHL right away is likely to be the deciding factor, and Holland says the Red Wings are "prepared to give him the opportunity to be on our team."
After Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, Schultz is likely to be the most heavily pursued free agent this year. For the Red Wings, a team in need of defensive help after losing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, you can bet Schultz is a high-priority free agent.