The San Jose Sharks have made a trade with the Detroit Red Wings, acquiring the rights to UFA defenseman Brad Stuart in exchange for UFA forward Andrew Murray and a conditional pick in the 2014 NHL draft.
Stuart was originally drafted by the Sharks, and spent six seasons there before brief stops in Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles, and eventually, Detroit. However, while he's bounced around, his wife and children have remained in the San Jose area, and he had said earlier this year that he wanted to play closer to his family.
In short, while there's still a question of whether or not Stuart will forgo delicious free agency to sign, the Sharks have every reason to be quite confident that he wants to come play for them.
But it's a wise move to get a head start. Considering the market for UFA defensemen, especially shutdown blue liners of Stuart's caliber, it was highly likely that someone else would throw a boatload of money at Stuart if he was available come July. Even if Stuart was set on coming West, money has a tendency to change people's minds.
It's also a wise move for the Sharks from a personnel standpoint. Stuart brings experience and a physical, shutdown aspect to their defense corps that they lack. Here's GM Doug Wilson saying exactly that. From the Sharks:
"We are very happy to acquire Brad's rights prior to July 1 and are hopeful that we come to an agreement on a new contract," said Wilson. "Brad is a player we are very familiar with — a physical, team-first defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess."
As for the Red Wings, don't think they did this all that willingly. They just lost Nick Lidstrom, and this is another blow to their top four. Knowing Stuart's desire to make like the Joad family and head West, they were wise to get something for him before he did, but now they're down two top-four defensemen.
Hands up if you think they'll be active in free agency.