Joe Thornton

Brad Stuart returns to the Bay

They say home is where the heart is, and for Brad Stuart, that may mean returning home to the heart of Silicon Valley.

The San Jose Sharks traded for negotiating rights with Stuart, a 32-year-old defenseman, from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Andrew Murray and a conditional 2014 draft pick on Sunday.

Stuart, who was originally drafted 3rd overall by the Sharks in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, played in San Jose for the first seven seasons of his career before being traded to the Boston Bruins, along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau, for Joe Thornton in 2005. Since the trade, Stuart has played for several clubs, including the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings, before finally settling in with the Red Wings in 2008. Paired with Niklas Kronwall, he helped lead Detroit to a Stanley Cup Championship that year.

All the while, Stuart’s wife and children remained in their Bay Area home, a fact that has weighed heavily on the defenseman’s mind. According to Brodie Brazil of CSN Bay Area, Stuart said that there were times last year that he was away from his family and thoughts of returning to the Sharks entered his mind. “It would be nice if this (San Jose) was the final destination,” Stuart said.

If both sides have mutual feelings on the signing, they have until July 1st to sign a deal now that the Sharks have acquired Stuart’s rights. When asked what Stuart brought to the table, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said he plays “physical, team-first D, tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess.”

This signing should create quite a crowd on the Sharks blue line. Already embedded in the Sharks defense are names like Dan Boyle, Marc Edouard-Vlasic, Douglas Murray and Brent Burns. With youngsters Justin Braun and Jason Demers seeing considerably more ice time in recent seasons, one of them will be playing the odd man out. The likely candidate for that is Demers, as Braun’s game has been steadily improving while Demers has underperformed since being called up a few years ago.

Murray, the man who can now call Detroit home, played in 39 games for the Sharks in 2011. He posted 1 goal and 3 assists in that span.

Over the 12-year course of Stuart’s career he has played in 876 games, amassing 74 goals and 231 assists. The Sharks hope that Stuart will bring not only production but also leadership and a tough, physical identity to the club when he makes his return to the Bay.

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