Mark Stuart's contract extension and the long term depth chart

Jared Wickerham

Nothing happens in a vacuum in the NHL, especially when it comes to roster decisions. The Mark Stuart contract decision is no different.

Don't worry guys, this post will not be a discussion of numbers versus intangibles, nor will this be a poo poo Stu kind of thing. This will be nothing more than a discussion of Mark Stuart's cap dollars, cap implications as well as the Winnipeg Jets long term defensive depth chart.

If  you want to read an ewy gooey take on the Stuart signing, friend of the blog Travis Hrubeniuk has you covered here:

A number-less argument for Mark Stuart.

If you don't like the signing and wanna chit chat with a like-minded individual, Ryan will surely accommodate you below and / or on Twitter.

Now, let's move onto the facts.

Things We Know

Kevin Cheveldayoff has signed Mark Stuart to a 4-year contract extension worth $10.5 million dollars.

Stuart's Cap Hit will be $2,625,000 and he is signed through the 2017-18 season. He was also granted a modified NTC.

Signing Mark Stuart means the Winnipeg Jets have 6 or 7 (depends where Dustin Byfuglien plays) defensemen signed through next season. Here is a look at the NHL level depth chart.

Left Defense Right Defense
Tobias Enstrom 5.75MM (2018) Dustin Byfuglien 5.20MM (2016)
Mark Stuart 2.65MM (2018) Zach Bogosian 5.14MM (2020)
Grant Clitsome 2.00MM (2016) Jacob Trouba 0.89MM (2016)
Keaton Ellerby (RFA) Paul Postma 0.71MM (2015)

Notes:

  • Five of these defensemen are locked up for at least the next two seasons.
  • All but Jacob Trouba are on one way contract and it's clear he isn't going anywhere.
  • Keaton Ellerby isn't signed, but he is likely to be extended and is important as he can play either side.
  • Barring a trade - and Byfuglien moving back - the Jets will only have room to add one NHL defender this off season.
  • At first blush, that isn't an impressive depth chart with the second pairing left defenseman being the most glaring hole.
Why Do the Jets Need a true second pairing left defenseman when they have STUUUUUU!!!?

Again - this is no offense to Stuart, but he is ideally suited to be a bottom pairing defender in the NHL. Coaches and media a like have noted his limitations. He has been a bottom pairing defender on good Boston Bruins teams and has been a bottom pairing defender on bad Winnipeg teams. That isn't an insult, that is simply his ideal role in today's NHL.

While Stuart has stepped up at times - including right now - to play second pairing minutes, playing him there isn't ideal. It has taken injuries (and Byfuglien playing forward) for this to happen and even now, Stuart ranks 6th in average defensive ice time among Jets regulars.

Further to that, over the last two seasons Ron Hainsey and Grant Clitsome have been beaten out Mark Stuart for second pairing ice. Keaton Ellerby, Zach Redmond and Adam Pardy have all been tried in that role as well. Stuart hasn't performed as a long term solution in that slot.

Admittedly, Stuart has been solid over the last 15 games of so, but it wouldn't be wise to trust that sample over the previous seven years of his career. Last time the Jets did that, they signed Grant Clitsome to a three year deal. Even with Stu in the fold, number two left defense is a position of need.

Can the second pairing left defenseman position be filled in the off-season?

Sure it can. There will be plenty of options in the off season. The Jets could also add somebody via trade or through free agency or perhaps Joshua Morrissey could force his way onto the team. Lots of things could happen.

Well then, what's the problem?

Regardless of how the Jets address the issue, an unfortunate side effect is that the Jets will be likely end up having $2MM parked in the press box for most of the next two seasons. They will also be paying a 3rd pairing D man $2.65MM. That is a lot of coin tied up in two bottom end defenders.

On it's own, Mark Stuart's deal isn't really a problem - but when you factor in Grant Clitsome's cap hit - it does make the Jets defensive core too bottom heavy. This is unlikely to press the Jets up against the salary cap, but it may impact True North Sports & Entertainment's internal budget. There is also little room for prospects to work their way into the lineup.

Stu is worth it!

He might be. Intangibles are great. Leadership is great. They are worth something. Wanting to play in Winnipeg is great too, but ideally negotiations in those scenarios lead to home town discounts. That didn't happen here. Players with comparable on-ice value have often signed for under $2MM on short term deals - sometimes less. That means Stu has six to eight hundred thousand dollars per year (plus extra years of term) worth of intangibles. Is he worth it? Maybe. I'll leave that for you guys to debate, but I will say four years is a lot of term for ANY depth player.

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