Detroit Red Wings
General Manager Ken Holland couldn’t resist the temptation to bolster a depleted defensive corps Tuesday, adding veteran Brad Stuart
, a player he’d been eyeing since last season’s playoffs, from the Los Angeles Kings
in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
The 27-year-old Stuart (6-foot-2, 213 pounds), who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, now moves from the team with the lowest point total in hockey in Los Angeles (26-34-4, 56 points) to the League’s best in Detroit (42-17-5, 89 points) where he’ll likely be a huge asset to the power-play and penalty-killing units.
”In last year’s playoffs in the Calgary series, we thought he was one of their better defensemen against us in the first round,’’ praised Holland of Stuart, who will be joining his fourth NHL franchise (San Jose, Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles) in 10 NHL seasons. “He plays abrasive. At playoff time, he gives us depth on defense. He’s gritty and has some size and he’ll give us a different dimension.’’
The Red Wings eliminated the Flames in six games during the Western Conference quarterfinal round last spring. Stuart played in all six games as a member of the Flames and had one assist.
Detroit, which is mired in a 1-7-1 slump, sent a second-round pick in this June’s Entry Draft and fourth-round pick in 2009 to the Kings for Stuart. The 28-year-old Alberta native, who certainly fits the Red Wings’ mold as a puck-moving defenseman, has struggled this season, collecting just five goals and 21 points in 63 games. Stuart is averaging 0.33 points-per-game this season and was 10th on the Kings with 21:13 minutes per game and second in shifts with 26.6.
The Kings now have two picks in the first round, three selections in the second round and three more in the third round of the 2008 Entry Draft. Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi also dealt veteran goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin to Anaheim in exchange for a seventh-round draft choice this summer.
For Holland, the opportunity to add a mobile defender was too good to pass up, especially when you consider the Wings are currently thin on defense with injuries to Nicklas Lidstrom (knee), Niklas Kronwall (clavicle), Chris Chelios (leg) and Brian Rafalski (groin).
Lidstrom, according to Holland, could be ready to skate by the end of this week and back in action in two weeks.
”He can play on the second power play and kill penalties,’’ Holland said. “You can never have enough defensemen as we saw last year in our playoff run.’’
In his last game against the Red Wings on Feb. 7 at Joe Louis Arena, Stuart actually tied a career-high with a goal and two assists to rally Los Angeles to a 5-3 victory. The 1998 first-round pick (third overall) of the Sharks signed a one-year deal with the Kings last summer. Prior to signing the contract, Stuart’s agent and Holland did discuss the possibility of joining Detroit.
”I talked to his agent a lot this summer when he was a free agent,’’ Holland said. “In the end, he’s married to a girl from California and ended up signing a one-year deal with L.A. So, he’s been someone that we’ve liked.’’
Stuart posted a personal best 43 points (12 goals, 31 assists) during the 2005-06 season, when he split time between San Jose and Boston. In November 2005, he was traded, along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, to the Bruins for Joe Thornton.
“He’s going to play physical,” Holland admitted. “He’s got good size and will move the puck up.’’
For his career, Stuart has played in 570 regular-season games and has compiled 227 points (58 goals, 169 assists) and 370 penalty minutes.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.