Sharks deal away veteran blueliner Brad Stuart

The San Jose Sharks are not expected to be major players as the NHL free agency period gets underway, but little tweaks to the roster are fair game.

On Tuesday, the Sharks cleared cap space by trading veteran defenseman Brad Stuart to the Colorado Avalanche for two draft picks: a 2016 second-rounder and a 2017 sixth-rounder.

Stuart, 34, signed a three-year, $10.8 million deal with the Sharks before the 2012-2013 season. He is scheduled to make $3.6 million in 2014-2015 in the final year of that contract, but according to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz, the Sharks will not be on the hook for any of his remaining salary.

In a press release, GM Doug Wilson said:

“In the phase that our organization is in, we made a decision that is in the best interest of all parties involved. Brad understands that we have made a commitment to give our younger players the opportunity to play and it was important to us to put Brad in a position where he has a chance to be successful.”

In 61 games last season, Stuart had three goals and eight assists for 11 points, his lowest total in a full season in his NHL career.

A third overall pick of the Sharks back in 1998, Stuart spent his first six seasons with the Sharks and blossomed into a fine, gritty defenseman. He was traded  to the Boston Bruins in 2005 along with Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm in the deal that brought Joe Thornton to San Jose.

Stuart’s age seemed to be catching up to him ever since he returned for his second go-round with the Sharks. From the Sharks’ perspective, a return of two draft picks for Stuart, including a second rounder, seems to be a bargain.

This deal strikes a similarity to the Douglas Murray trade two seasons ago, when Wilson was able to coax not one, but two second-round draft picks from the Penguins for the sluggish defenseman.

Scott Hannan, Jason Demers, Matt Irwin and Justin Braun are expected to be the holdovers on the Sharks’ defensive unit next season, with Dan Boyle signing a two-year deal with the Rangers earlier on Tuesday. The Sharks signed free agent defenseman Taylor Fedun today, although he is likely to be sent down to Worcester.

How the Sharks choose to fill out the empty slots on defense remains a mystery. Much like their plan for this offseason.