Thursday, 6 March 2014

Mark Stuart re-ups for 4 years with the Winnipeg Jets

Yesterday, as predicted by many, the Winnipeg Jets made no moves at the trade deadline. For once I will not criticize GM Kevin Cheveldayoff for his lack of activity because it was the correct course of action. What they did accomplish yesterday was better than any trade they could have made, they signed pending unrestricted free agent Mark Stuart to a very reasonable deal.

Stuart and his agent definitely gave the Jets a "hometown discount" to stay in Winnipeg. He signed a four year deal worth 10,500,000 for an average cap hit of 2,625,000 per season. That is a very manageable number for a 4-5 defenseman, especially with the cap continuing to rise. Factor in the incredibly weak free agent class, Stuart gave up potentially 500,000-750,000 per season to remain a Jet. 

According to Cap Geek, Stuart will be the Jets 4th highest paid D man, depending on whether or not Dustin Byfuglien stays at forward or not. Regardless of that the Jets have their top four (or five) D men under contract for the next two seasons when Jacob Trouba will need a new contract. Having the blue line locked up gives Cheveldayoff the ability to focus on the forward group at the draft and when free agency begins. 

The advance stats folks wont like this deal. Stuart is not especially gifted offensively. His first pass out of the zone isn't as strong as the other D men on the team. His Corsi numbers are all over the place but generally below 50%. What does bring is toughness, grit, and he's a voracious penalty killer. In this case I think you have to ignore some of the numbers and look at it this way. How many teams would have wanted to sign Stuart on July 1? The correct answer is 30. 

Mark Stuart is a leader, a "glue guy", a warrior who will throw is body in harms way. He is the key guy on the penalty kill as well, leading the team in short handed minutes. He is a very important piece to the Winnipeg Jets puzzle. That is why I give GM Cheveldayoff an A+ for what he accomplished yesterday.

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