September 02 2014 05:20PM
When Mark Stuart signed his 4-year contract extension, there was a gasp and many eyes rolling throughout the NHL. Stuart is a solidified NHL player, but a guy that plays 5/6 pairing minutes against weak competition doesn't normally earn more than a two-year deal.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made fans shudder when he stated that Stuart "is what the Winnipeg Jets are all about" and obviously looked past his inequalities.
Now equipped with a 4-year contract, Stuart enters the season as a dressing room leader who will be grooming the likes of Jacob Trouba, Paul Postma and maybe even Josh Morrisey this upcoming season.
While Stuart may be at his best when you play him on a video game, he still has valuable leadership which is vital in the NHL and we don't know what goes on behind the dressing room doors.
Mark Stuart was acquired along with Blake Wheeler in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. While Peverley was a big part of the Bruins cup run, this deal is looking like a huge win for the Jets as both Stuart and Wheeler are leaders on the club currently.
Stuart is best when used in a defensive role in limited ice time and penalty killing. The fact of the matter is that Stuart actually had a great season last year even though his 47.6% Corsi rating doesn't inspire much.
Stuart will never put up big points and he is only noticed when he makes mistakes. As long as the Jets don't play Stuart in a top 4 role, he can be reasonably effective.
Considering the fact that leadership is vital, Stuart may have been actually a good investment for the next 4 years. We don't know the extent of Stuart's importance because his best work may be behind the scenes, but a lot of organizations seem to have a guy like Stuart that is a good team guy that they keep around.
Stuart won't magically score a 30-point season (although it would make Cheveldayoff look like a genius) and he won't magically become a 20-minute-a-night player, but he will score his 15 points and kill penalties.
There's hope that Stuart will stay healthy all year, but he could find himself as a healthy scratch from time to time (although it's unlikely considering the 4-year investment and NHL politics).
I'm predicting 75 games and 3-10-13 with a modest sub 50% Corsi.
1. How valuable is Stuart to the club?
I’ve kind of answered this question throughout the article and as I’m writing, researching and watching highlights, I’m kind of coming around to justify the signing. Stuart kind of reminds me of Ladislav Smid with the Oilers. They both block shots, play hard, play with their heart on their sleeves, and they are ridiculed because of the harsh advanced stats numbers. Stuart may be responsible for growing Jacob Trouba. That alone is vital.
2. Will Stuart be effective at the end of his contract?
In year 4 of Stuart’s contract, he will be 34 years old, and that’s where many players find themselves at the end of their rope. A player that endures as much physical pain as the Stuart’s of the NHL will likely be too worn out toi continue their career. But then again, Steve Staios played til he was 38, so who knows.
3. Does Stuart deserve a roster spot over the young studs such as Brendan Kichton, Josh Morrisey and Paul Postma?
Keeping a player like Stuart for the next 4 years means that young defensemen will need to wait a few more years. It is a good move considering Stuart is likely a great mentor on the blueline for a lot of the kids and the kids will get to develop on their own time table.