March 4, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart (23) during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Potential UFA Du Jour: Brad Stuart, Detroit Red Wings

2011-12 TEAM: Detroit Red Wings

POSITION: Defence

DOB: 06 NOV 1979 (32 on October 1st)

2011-12 NUMBERS: 6-15-21 with 29 PIM in 81 GP (Playoffs: 0-1-1 in 5 GP)

2011-12 CAP: $3.75M

2011-12 SALARY: $3.75M

THE FACTS

The 6’2″ 210-pound defenceman from Rocky Mountain House Alberta was the third overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft with the San Jose Sharks.  Stuart was dealt from the Sharks to the Bruins along with Marco Sturm for Joe Thornton in 2005.  Stuart has been with the Detroit Red Wings since being dealt from the LA Kings for a second round draft pick in February of 2008.  Stuart was a member of Detroit’s Stanley Cup team in 2008.  Since being drafted by the Sharks, Stuart has played for a total of five NHL teams (SJ, BOS, CGY, LA, DET).  Stuart has just completed his final year on his 4 year / $15M contract.

IS BRAD STUART A GOOD FIT WITH THE OILERS?

In one word:  yes.

In two words:  Sure is.

WHAT DO YOU GET WITH BRAD STUART?

Another lefty, Stuart would be made for prime time on an Oiler blue.  Remember a week or so ago when I was talking about what a great signing Matt Carle would be?  After almost 15 years, Stuart has Carle’s plug, if not his numbers.  In an idea situation (if we had a couple of Coffeys on the blue line), Stuart would be an excellent bottom six.  On this Oilers team, he’s top four material. The graphic, if you please.

Photo courtesy oilers.nhl.com

No question. Stuart is a walk on to this club.  Appreciate that Stuart is not a forty point guy, but he signals stability, something that’s sorely lacking on this Oilers blue.  I need you to stare deep inside that .jpeg and realize that what you see there is Edmonton’s defence when they’re 100% healthy.  What happens if Whitney needs a night off, or (God forbid) Smid has a bout with the H1N1 virus again, or if Petry catches the gout?  Stuart is a 100% walk-on here.

Want proof?  Do a quick comparison.   This is Brad Stuart, and this is Oiler Nick Schultz.  On the depth chart, Schultz is a top four on the Oilers (although he’s fifth in ice time) while Stuart is fifth among Detroit defence in TOI.  This is quite nice, because both Stuart ($3.75M) and Schultz ($3.6M) make nearly the same salary.  Stuart beats Schultz in every statistical category.  Stuart logs more ice time, shoots the puck more, has a better shooting percentage (6.3% versus 2%) scored a SH goal, had a PP goal and two game winners.  And that’s just comparing him against Schultz, who is a top four on this team.  Works for me.

This way, you can give Taylor Hall a break from playing goal.

BUT HE’S WITH DETROIT, AND SCHULTZ PLAYED WITH MINNESOTA AND EDMONTON

Which is why I didn’t bring up assists, total points, or +/-, as that would be statistical cherry picking.  It’s not a tough stretch being a Red Wing and outscoring an Oilers defenceman, what with the secondary assists you’d likely catch being on the ice with guys like Zetterberg or Datsyuk.  Would it be fair to say that less goals are going in Detroit’s net when Stuart is on the ice than when Schultz is for Edmonton?

This isn’t an assault on Nick Schultz, because it’s for certain that he’s a roster player.  Rather, Schultz is the closest comparable that I have for Stuart, and it’s also convenient that their contracts are similar.

AGE IS BUT A NUMBER

Stuart will be 33 in November, which could end up helping the Oilers in this circumstance.  I’m thinking a two year deal would be ideal, as it (again) would be a real, live breathing NHL defenceman on a team that needs as much help as it can get.  Stuart plays 21 minutes a night as the fifth guy on Detroit’s roster.  Would he like to play a little more?   If the Wings don’t sign him by July 1st, I’d be willing to offer him around $5.5M for a pair of seasons and see what happens.  That number could slide if needed, (or maybe a little bit more for one season).  At the end of two seasons, Stuart will be on the latter side of 34, and if both sides were still feeling up to it, could go from there.

WHAT ARE THE CHANCES THAT BRAD STUART WOULD SIGN WITH EDMONTON?

What’s happening with Nick Lidstrom?  That’s a six million dollar question.  Wouldn’t be surprised what happens either way.  If Lidstrom signs on for another year, Stuart becomes a bit more expendable.  Stuart is making just 500K more than D man Jonathan Ericsson, who is on the books for two more years in Detroit. I’d take Stuart a hundred times over Ericsson.

The chances Stuart becomes an Oiler?  A bit less than Justin Schultz, and a lot better than Matt Carle.  Begin your Venn Diagrams now.

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