Sharks Sign Brad Stuart to 3-Year, $10.8 Million Deal

As reported by TSN's Darren Dreger, the Sharks have signed recently acquired impending UFA defenseman Brad Stuart to a 3-year contract with an average annual cap hit of $3.6 million. Stuart, of course, was drafted 3rd overall by the Sharks in 1998 and spent seven years with the organization before being traded to Boston with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau for current San Jose captain Joe Thornton.

I'm not thrilled with the deal for a few reasons, most of which I outlined in this post a week ago when the Sharks acquired Stuart's rights from the Red Wings. Stuart was a passable second-pairing defenseman in Detroit and represents a sizable upgrade in that spot over what Douglas Murray brought to the Sharks in 2011-12. Taking the last few seasons of their respective careers in sum, however, Stuart hasn't been that much more effective than Murray while playing easier minutes on the whole than the Swedish blueliner. And yet Stuart will be carrying a cap hit more than a million dollars greater than that of Murray next season, as well as for the two after that. Here's how Stuart stacks up against comparable defensemen (i.e., stay-at-home types with cap hits similar to Stuart's who signed their current deals as unrestricted free agents) both in terms of their numbers since 2008 and their cap hits next season.

Player 5v5 TOI/60 Corsi Rel QoC DZone Start% Corsi Rel 5v5 +/-/60 12-13 Cap Hit
Brad Stuart 16.96 0.639 47.8% -10.0 +0.04 $3.6mil
Barret Jackman 17.23 0.962 57.0% -2.5 +0.13 $3.16mil
Jan Hejda 16.96 0.789 60.5% -10.4 -0.25 $3.25mil
Eric Brewer 17.51 0.854 65.5% -5.1 -0.35 $3.875mil
Rob Scuderi 16.14 0.877 50.6% -6.0 +0.38 $3.4mil
Willie Mitchell 17.37 1.084 52.2% -0.3 +0.66 $3.5mil
Dennis Seidenberg 17.60 0.244 52.2% -2.4 +0.14 $3.25mil

Apart from Seidenberg, every defenseman on this list has faced tougher competition at even-strength and started a greater percentage of their 5v5 shifts in the defensive zone than Stuart since the start of the 08-09 season and yet, with the exception of Hejda, they've all posted better Relative Corsi rates, a measure of the extent to which their presence on the ice improves their team's ability to control possession. Apart from Hejda and Brewer they've all posted better +/- ratings over that span as well. There really isn't much justification for Stuart carrying the second-greatest cap hit on this list particularly since, at 32 and no longer having the luxury of skating alongside Nicklas Lidstrom, it's not like we should expect him to improve over the life of this deal.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. At most, Stuart's cap hit is probably around $600-700k more per season than his value dictates which isn't great but isn't exactly Wade Redden territory either, especially when taking the ever-increasing salary cap into consideration. Still, based on our look at the Sharks' salary cap situation earlier today, the team has a shade over $11 million in space left with at least six forwards and one defenseman to sign. And that's assuming ownership is willing to spend to the $70 million cap, far from a sure thing. It makes little sense for the team to pay Murray $2.5 million to either skate on the third pairing or sit in the press box next season so look for him to be shopped at the draft. With Stuart's somewhat inflated deal in place, the Sharks need every cent of space they can free up to improve their sub-par forward depth.