DETROIT – In the end, it was a family decision for Brad Stuart, who is one step closer to returning to northern California after the Red Wings traded the rights to the veteran defenseman to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
In return for his rights, the Wings received a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2014 NHL amateur draft and forward Andrew Murray, who can become a free agent on July 1.
Stuart, 32, heads back to the Sharks who made him a third overall draft pick in 1998, behind Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier and Nashville’s David Legwand.
Stuart can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Stuart’s desire to return to California where he’s been raising a young family, including a step-daughter who will be entering her senior year of high school in the fall, has been a big issue for him.
In April, as the Wings cleaned out their locker room at Joe Louis Arena, Stuart spoke candidly about the last four years in Detroit, his teammates, the organization, his hockey future, and his desire to be closer to his family, including two young sons, Jake and Logan.
Since the Wings acquired Stuart in a trade from Los Angeles late in the 2007-08 season he has regularly made trips home to San Jose, even if that meant seeing his wife Melissa and the kids for only a day before rejoining the team.
“There were times if we had a Sunday off and didn't play again until Wednesday, they'd let me take Sunday and Monday off so I'd go home Sunday, come back Monday night, miss a practice,” Stuart said. “Now flying in for a day is some times worse than not coming at all because they get all emotional. I made it through the last few years. It'll be a decision we have to make whether we can do it again.”
During his time with the Wings, which includes winning the Stanley Cup in 2008, Stuart has been a steady contributor on the blue line and an exceptional defender on the penalty kill. Partners with Niklas Kronwall for much of his time, there’s no doubt that Stuart will be missed. He produced 16 goals and 62 assists with a plus-11 rating in 306 games with the Wings.
But it’s hard to blame a man for wanting to be with his family.
“Yeah, if it was a purely hockey decision, I would stay,” Stuart said. “But I've got other things to consider and other factors other than just hockey.”
Stuart’s trade, coupled with Nicklas Lidstrom’s decision to retire after a 20-season career, leaves the Wings with two defensemen – Kronwall and Ian White – who have played more than 400 NHL games. However, the Wings also have Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith under contract for next season.
Veteran Kyle Quincey can become a restricted free agent next month.
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