Free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz appears to be shrinking the number of teams he's interested in.
The Detroit Red Wings, thought to be a favorite to sign the coveted 21-year-old blueliner, were told Thursday that Schultz would not be signing with them.
"I was told we are not on his list of teams," Red Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit News. "We expressed our interest to his agent (Don Meehan). They went over all the information (Wednesday)."
A native of West Kelowna, B.C., Schultz is eligible for a two-year entry-level contract, which reportedly will contain a base salary of $925,000, and with bonuses can reach $3.77 million. So while the financial offers are the same from each team, Schultz is basing his decision on where he could fit on a team's roster -- he reportedly wants to play for a team that can offer him top-four defense minutes.
He also reportedly is hoping to play for a Canadian team, and preferably stay in the west. That means the Canucks, Flames and Oilers -- who sent a delegation led by team president Kevin Lowe to meet with Schultz on Wednesday -- could be front-runners. Other reported possible landing spots are the Maple Leafs (Wisconsin teammate and close friend Jake Gardiner plays there), Rangers, Flyers, Blackhawks and Senators, but their hopes could be dwindling like the Red Wings.
Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2008 draft, Schultz blossomed in three seasons at the University of Wisconsin. He was a two-time conference defensive player of the year and a Hobey Baker finalist the past two seasons. He led all NCAA defensemen last season in goals, points and power-play goals.
He withdrew from school after his junior year, and when he didn't sign with Anaheim during a 30-day window of exclusivity that ended last week, he became an unrestricted free agent.
While some are questioning why so much attention is being paid to a player yet to skate in an NHL game, Schultz is considered by many to be the best player not currently in the League.
"His foundation of skating is excellent," NHL Network analyst Craig Button told NHL.com. "He has speed, quickness and agility and is able to use his abilities to beat pressure defensively and to move into advantageous positions and be a threat offensively. … Overall, he's a player who is capable of controlling the pace and tempo of play when he has the puck. He's a player who wants to make a difference in the game. I think he has a chance to be a top-end defenseman."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK