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Petshark: Talking Stick

Wilson trades for Stuart’s rights: not surprising but kind of odd

News that Doug Wilson had traded a conditional 7th round pick and talking rights with Andrew Murray for talking rights with Brad Stuart was met with general approval by Sharks tweeters. To me it seemed odd. When I say “odd” I don’t mean wrong or crazy, just less straightforward than it appears to be.

Brad Stuart will be a free agent on July 1, unless he signs a contract with the Sharks before that.  If, as was strongly rumored, Stuart had expressed a specific desire to come back to San Jose, why did Wilson have to trade anything at all to talk to him before July 1?  Why did he have to officially talk to him before then?  Because the market would swallow Stuart up with grand offers?  Is he really likely to be overpaid by enough to spend more years away from his family?  It doesn’t sound like he’s interested in exploring that:

“It’s draining. I’ve done if for three years now and it’s at the point where if I could make it better, I want to at least know I tried,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out, so be it, but I wanted to at least know I tried. Maybe this can be the solution.” -Working the Corners

If being closer to his family wasn’t actually important to him, why would he have mentioned it at all?  Why not stay completely mum and wait for the best offer?  Wouldn’t Anaheim be closer to home as well?  Hasn’t Phoenix established itself as a contender now?  Sure, they may yet leave Phoenix for the other side of the world, but Stuart shouldn’t have ruled them out, unless he wanted to not only be closer to San Jose but in San Jose.

I could understand the Sharks paying to talk to him in advance, if he were unfamiliar with the organization, or if the Sharks were unfamiliar with his salary requirements or some such. Neither is the case.  Considering how adept even third party observers are at guessing what a contract’s term and value will be, I can’t believe these parties don’t have a good sense of what they need or can offer each other by now.  Barring a completely insulting offer which both parties would know was insulting, I don’t understand the need for lengthy negotiations between Stuart and San Jose.

It may be a good thing to have Stuart on the Sharks’ roster, but why now instead of 20 days from now?  Why did this need to be done before the organization could even officially announce that Todd McLellan will be staying on as head coach?  Why this urgency?

By signing Stuart ahead of time, Wilson can move on to other things like the draft and other negotiations.  Was the Stuart Question really holding those things up?  Perhaps I am a more reckless gambler than Wilson if I would be willing to consider Stuart a done deal before a deal was done.  A seventh round pick is not a high price to pay, but it is a price.  I wouldn’t call myself a reckless gambler, just very very cheap.  I won’t pay anything for something I can get for free, unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a rush.

It makes me worry that familiar faces will be moving out,even before July 1.  Douglas Murray and Jason Demers are the names most mentioned as moveable defensemen, right?

I cringe to think that Demers could be traded away.  Demers is not the obvious man out if Stuart is signed, he was just the most underutilized this season.  I don’t believe he is as superfluous as the coaching staff made him seem. 

At the very least, the role Demers played in 2010-11 should have earned him the same patience McLellan showed with Antti Niemi and Colin White, giving them a great deal of time to find their game while the team struggled.  I hope that policy of showing more patience with the veterans than with young players will go by the way during that philosophical overhaul the Sharks promised.  It isn’t just unfair.  It doesn’t even work, it is completely backwards.  A vet should take less time, not more to get up to speed than a player in his first few NHL seasons.

To make the recent trade seem more odd, The Neutral did a breakdown of Stuart’s numbers over at Fear the Fin.  That analysis, to put it mildly, is comparatively damning of the trade, a stark contrast to all the “woo-hoo!  Top four d-man coming on board!” I saw on Twitter.  Based on those numbers, Stuart would not be a marked improvement over Douglas Murray.  Well, probably he is faster.  That’s something, right?

IwoCPO offered a perspective that might soften that statistical bleakness from The Neutral:

Brad Stuart was going to San Jose.  The deal, in the way that deals like this are already made months before they’re legally and formally signed, was already done.  Holland just allowed both parties to hasten the logistics.  4 years of grit and badassery, blocked shots, big hits and steady, tough play in the Winged Wheel earned this guy what Holland gave him today. -Abel to Yzerman

Stuart does sound like a good guy to have on the team.  The gift mentioned is the chance to come back to San Jose post-haste.  Still, would 20 days have made that much difference?  There has to be something else in play to make a signed contract so important to get right now.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: brad+stuart, douglas+murray, jason+demers, red+wings, trade


Riviera's avatar

Tick. Tock.

Posted by Riviera from Phoenix on 06/11/12 at 12:08 AM ET


There has to be something else in play to make a signed contract so important to get right now.

Maybe it`s a concession to Stuart.  We know he wanted to be in California, and preferable San Jose, for family reasons and it`s a good sign for him that Wilson is showing that he`s interested too.

On top of that, if Wilson can get a deal done with Stuart now (pre-draft and pre-free agency) then that`s just one less thing that Wilson will have to think about.  Also, if a deal gets done then maybe he can trade away a defenseman at or before the draft and that, combined with a Stuart signing, would give Wilson a very clear idea of what he has to focus on come July 1st and of what he has to work with.

Posted by Garth on 06/11/12 at 12:49 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yes, 20 days will make quite a difference to the Sharks—in terms of *money.* Stuart, under the temporary $70.3 million cap, may earn $5 million or more on the open market. Wilson can probably have Stuart’s services for at least $500K less than that amount, if not fewer bucks. If you’re interested in signing a player and don’t want to have to grossly overpay to acquire his services, these kinds of moves make very, very sound financial sense.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/11/12 at 04:04 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

While I am sure this move was made primarily to prevent other teams from bidding for Stuart…

Part of me wonders if Wilson went through with the trade in partial recognition of the fact that that Holland was held over the barrel this time, and that Wilson is basically getting a big pickup for practically nothing.  I know that in the world of salary caps and heightened competition there is little room for charity between teams, but you have to wonder, even if only in a limited sense, if this was a token gesture of amity between GMs.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 06/11/12 at 11:42 AM ET

petshark's avatar

Bezukov, I hadn’t thought of that. 

A number of Sharks fans feel that Murray is dispensable, but I don’t think that the blue line is the team’s weakest link at this time.  While Stuart may be an upgrade over Murray, it still means spending more money for what should be a lower priority than bottom six offense and improvements in goal.  I think that’s what sets off alarms for me here.  On the other hand, if Wilson doesn’t end up signing Stuart, no harm no foul, just oddness.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 06/11/12 at 07:14 PM ET

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net

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