Prior to very little chips falling in the afternoon during yesterday’s NHL trade deadline, the Atlanta Thrashers were able to lock up a big piece to the puzzle on the blue line. The Thrashers signed defensemen Mark Stuart to a three year extension worth reportedly 1.7 million annually. It was announced by general manager Rick Dudley at a late afternoon press conference.
Stuart, 26, was acquired back on February 18th from the Boston Bruins as part of a 4-player swap. The 6’2 215 lb defensemen played in 31 contests for the Boston Bruins prior to his arrival in Atlanta.
The Rochester, Minnesota native was selected by the Boston Bruins in the 1st round (21st overall) in the 2003 NHL entry draft. Stuart played his college hockey at Colorado College collecting 54 points over the course of three seasons totaling 118 games.
” You don’t want to go to the summer with a player like that. Our choice is clearly that we wanted to keep this player because we would have been looking for someone just like him in a couple of months and we knew that. Instead of doing that, let’s do our best to keep this particular player. We like everything about him,” Dudley said when addressing the media.
Stuart has already provided the Atlanta Thrashers will an in depth look at what he has in store as we move forward. A solid skater who loves to hit in his role as a stay-at-home defensemen. Mark Stuart will provide the Thrashers with important leadership skills on and off the ice, which will be crucial moving forward for Atlanta.
Stuart will not shy away from occasional fights and already has a major under his belt four games in with the Thrashers.
Stuart’s physical presence is a perfect fit on the Thrashers blue line to mix in with the talented puck movers and the free-wheeling offensive presence in Dustin Byfuglien.
Mark Stuart’s brother “Colin”, is a former member of the Thrashers organization and is a current member of the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, top minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.
All three Thrasher newcomers, Radek Dvorak, Rob Schremp and Ben Maxwell will make their Thrasher debuts as they host former Atlanta blue liner Brent Sopel and the Montreal Canadiens. Maxwell will meet his former team in just his first NHL game of the 2010-11 season.
Backup goaltender Chris Mason will face Carey Price.