If you had to wager who was the least popular Colorado Avalanche player, chances are you'd put money on Brad Stuart. From the moment he was traded from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2016 2nd Round pick and a 2017 6th Round pick, it was all but guaranteed he'd never produce enough to earn that value.
And then Joe Sakic did an even more preposterous thing and offer the (then) 34-year old a two-year extension totaling 7.2 million dollars -- before he'd ever stepped on the ice.
Of course, given the limited no-trade clause in Stuart's previous contract, it's very likely the swap was contingent on this extension -- and Joe did what he had to do to bring in his veteran of seven straight playoff appearances -- but it was clear at the time to many astute hockey fans this was gasoline and a match on top of an already reeking pile of manure.
In 65 games in 2014-15, Brad Stuart was Minus-422 in 5-on-5 shot differential, which was the third-worst in the entire NHL for a player not on the clearly-tanking Buffalo Sabres. It was an absolute mess to watch, and a major contributing factor toward the team's sharp regression a year after winning the division.
Last season, we didn't have to suffer through the atrocious play -- Stuart only appeared in six games before being sidelined with a back injury -- but his 3.6 million dollar cap hit was definitely felt. And Colorado will feel it again next year before the team is finally relieved of this cursed contract in 2017-18.
It's denied the Avalanche the cap flexibility to sign and retain larger role players on the active roster, and will continue to have an effect, even if Stuart is riding the bench or put on waivers. When you're bumping up against the salary cap, which Colorado will surely be doing after signing their big-name RFAs, 3.6 million dollars of dead money is the difference between adding a Top-9 forward in free agency or trading for a player like Mikkel Boedker at the deadline. It's a shame and I'm sure Sakic is kicking himself.
As this series goes on, we'll add more graphs and statistical counterarguments, but there's really nothing to disagree on here. The Avalanche have gotten negative value from Brad Stuart during his tenure for a sizeable amount of money.
This grade is a no-brainer.
MHH Staff Grade: F
Here's the poll breakdown for those interested: