Defensemen Brad Stuart's departure from the San Jose Sharks in 2005 was unexpected and unceremonious. He was part of the deal that sent him, Wayne Primeau, and Marco Sturm to the Boston Bruins for Joe Thornton. The trade was announced in the middle of a game, and the players involved were pulled from the bench minutes before the game (watch it unfold here).
Needless to say, Stuart did not like having to leave the team that had drafted him. He had spent six years in San Jose, but now faced major challenges. Not only did he have to play across the country in Boston, but he would have to leave his wife and three kids, who were living comfortably in San Jose.
Stuart then spent the next three years as a journeyman, playing for the Bruins, Calgary Flames, and Los Angeles Kings before finally settling down in Detroit. He signed a multi-million, long-term contract with the Red Wings in 2008, and won the Stanley Cup the next season. Everything seemed perfect, except for his family situation. While he went around the league, his wife and kids stayed in California, making it very hard on Stuart.
"I've been living here while my family has spent a lot of time in California," Stuart said, via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. "I've got a step-daughter that needs to finish high school. That's how it is. There's really no way to get around that. I guess it will be up to me to decide what needs to be done, because it's been a tough couple of years. As much fun and as great as it's been to play here, it's been equally as tough on the family side of it."
Now he has a chance to make things right again.
Stuart is an unrestricted free-agent, meaning he can negotiate with any team. It does not come as a surprise that the San Jose Sharks, the team he spent his first six seasons with, are one of the teams interested.
At age 32, Stuart is still a solid top-four defenseman, which the Sharks are lacking. Adding him in with Brent Burns, Dan Boyle, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gives San Jose a productive and possibly lethal top-four.
He is also an excellent penalty-killer. Kevin Kurz of CSN chimes in:
Furthermore, Stuart led the Red Wings in time-on-ice shorthanded per game this season (3:10), and would immediately upgrade San Jose’s horrid penalty kill. The Red Wings finished 18th in the NHL at 81.8 percent, nearly five percentage points higher than San Jose’s 29th-ranked unit (76.9 percent).
Kurz also points out that the Sharks could get Stuart at a bargain deal. He made $3.7 million with the Red Wings last season, and might take a "hometown discount" to sign with San Jose.
It remains to be seen where Stuart will sign, but keep your eye out on the Sharks.