Analysis: Stuart signing bolsters already strong Detroit defense

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Detroit Red Wings wasted no time in locking up one of the few items on their agenda today, as defenseman Brad Stuart re-signed with the Stanley Cup champions, inking a four-year deal worth approximately $3.75 million per season.

Now $3.75 million per year may be a bit of a reach for Stuart (we had him pegged at $3 million per), but the Wings are in very good shape when it comes to next year's salary cap, so perhaps this is a way for the brass to reward the playoff run and show confidence in the young man.

Stuart clearly made himself a priority during this season's Cup run, pairing with Niklas Kronwall and establishing a solid second combo behind offensive titans Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski.

The Kronwall-Stuart duo was mean and nasty, offering a great foil to the first pairing's slick skill game.

Along with the physical aspect of his game, Stuart also put points on the board; he finished fourth in Stanley Cup final scoring with five points, netting seven points overall in 21 playoff games. Naturally, the Wings don't need him to score, but it was a nice bonus.

Detroit now has seven defensemen under contract with Chris Chelios still unsigned. One would think either Derek Meech or Brett Lebda will be expected to fill a regular role (not to mention buzzed-about prospect Jonathan Ericsson) and with Andreas Lilja recently re-signing, there are going to be some major battles for the fifth and sixth spots on the blueline. So whither Chelios?

The other major suitor for Stuart was his former team in Los Angeles, where the Kings are definitely in the market for some experienced defense. Trading away Lubomir Visnovsky to Edmonton earlier this week meant the Kings now have only Tom Preissing, Jack Johnson and Matt Greene (acquired alongside Jarret Stoll in the Visnovsky deal) under contract for next season, with Rob Blake the biggest name yet to be re-signed by the franchise.

Retirement is also a possibility for Blake, so the Kings will need bodies fast. Will this mean 2008 first-rounders Drew Doughty and/or Colten Teubert make the leap right away? Look for Los Angeles to make a splash sooner than later if GM Dean Lombardi is to keep his team out of the basement next season.

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