On Sunday the Sharks re-acquired Brad Stuart from the Detroit Red Wings for Andrew Murray and a conditional 7th round pick. Stuart, drafted by the Sharks with the 3rd overall pick in the 1998 NHL Draft, spent parts of 6 seasons with the team before being traded, along with Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm, to the Bruins for Joe Thornton.
Coming off the 1997 NHL Draft, which landed the Sharks Patrick Marleau (2nd overall) and Scott Hannan (23rd overall), the Sharks were looking for a blue chip two-way defensemen that would form a critical part of the team’s core. Along with Marleau and Hannan, Stuart was pegged as the player who could anchor the power play, contribute to the penalty kill, and with his size (6’2” 215 lbs) provide a physical presence. Despite 153 pts (36-117-153) in 377 games for the Sharks, Stuart never developed into the player he was drafted to be so Doug Wilson deemed him expendable and he traded him to the Bruins in 2005 for Joe Thornton. To be fair to Stuart, he was never a useless player that the Sharks were looking to get rid of, the team just felt he didn’t have enough value or enough potential after 6 years in the league to justify keeping him out of a trade for Joe Thornton. Brad Stuart was and is a useful player, but Joe Thornton was and is an MVP level talent.
Although Stuart’s Sharks career never fully lived up to his lofty draft position and the high expectations that went with it, the Brad Stuart era was not without its highlights. On April 4, 2004, in the season finale against the Los Angeles Kings, Stuart scored 2 goals in a 17 second span at the end of the 3rd period to tie a game the Sharks would go on to win in overtime. Then in the playoffs that season Stuart was a big part of the first Sharks team in franchise history to reach the Western Conference Finals, chipping in 6 pts (1-5-6) in 17 games while averaging over 23 minutes of ice time.
The fact that Stuart didn’t become the all around player the Sharks had hoped he would doesn’t mean that he isn’t a valuable player. In 2008 he won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings, scoring 7 pts (1-6-7) over 21 games to go with a +21 rating while averaging over 21 minutes a game. Since leaving the Sharks Stuart has become a more reliable defensive player and a more consistent physical presence, unfortunately those improvements have come as his offensive numbers have declined. Stuart’s success in his second stint in San Jose will likely depend on what the team expects from him. If the Sharks are hoping Stuart improves their top 4 they are likely to be disappointed again, but Stuart’s style of play and experience level would be a real asset to the bottom pair.
What’s particularly interesting about this trade is the fact that Stuart is scheduled to be a free agent on July 1, so the Sharks acquired him now to give themselves an exclusive window to negotiate an extension. Expect a deal to be reached, perhaps very quickly, considering that during the season Stuart announced his intention to sign with a team on the west coast to be closer to his wife and children who have remained in San Jose where Stuart makes his offseason home.
The final numbers of the contract, however, will be worth keeping an eye on. Per CapGeek the Sharks currently have roughly $55 million committed to 14 players, which leaves about $14 million to spend on 12 roster spots. Stuart’s coming off a 4 year, $15 million contract and at age 32 and with declining offensive numbers it’s unlikely he’ll get a similar contract this time around. Given the fact that the Sharks need to improve the roster and don’t have a lot of cap space or prospects with which to do it, what Stuart eventually signs for may be a clue as to what other moves the Sharks will or will not be making. If Stuart signs for a contract that’s in line with what the Sharks can afford after they fill out the rest of the roster, say $1-$1.5 million per year, then it’s quite possible that Stuart will be used as a bottom pair defensemen and effectively replace Colin White. On the other hand, if Stuart gets more like $2-$2.5 million per year it may signal the fact that one of the Sharks currently under contract is about to be traded. Doug Wilson has never been afraid of making a move and the first round exit at the hands of the Blues in only 5 games exposed the fact that the Sharks have some holes to fill, certainly more than replacing Colin White with Brad Stuart.
As far as what Detroit gets in this deal, Andrew Murray was a 4th liner for the Sharks early in the season before being sent down to Worcester after 39 games in San Jose. Given the fact that Murray is also an impending Free Agent and did not make a return from Worcester once he went down it’s clear he wasn’t in Doug Wilson’s plans moving forward. In addition, the 7th round pick that Detroit is getting in the deal is conditional upon Stuart signing an extension with San Jose. So the Sharks are basically giving the Wings nothing for the right to exclusively negotiate with Stuart, and if he signs it will only cost them a 7th round pick.
The Sharks have a lot of work to do this offseason if they are going to get back to the level of competing for the Stanley Cup in 2012-2013, and Doug Wilson has a lot of decisions to make as free agency and the NHL draft approach. For now the Sharks have made a solid first move by finding a way to improve the team’s depth on the blueline without risking any real assets, but only time will tell what the full trickle down effects of this trade will be.
Share This Article
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.