Brad Stuart told the Detroit Red Wings months ago that he preferred to play on a team closer to his San Jose home next season.
Sunday, the Sharks did what they could to make that a reality, acquiring the rights to the defenseman who was their first-round pick in the 1998 draft with the hopes of signing him to long-term deal by July 1.
Stuart, 32, can become an unrestricted free agent that day. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson agreed to send minor league center Andrew Murray and a conditional draft pick to the Red Wings for three weeks of exclusive negotiating access with Stuart.
"Brad is a player we are very familiar with -- a physical, team-first defenseman who is tough to play against, which is exactly the kind of mentality we want our team to possess," Wilson said.
If the Sharks sign Stuart, the Red Wings pick up San Jose's seventh-round pick in 2014; if Stuart signs elsewhere, the Sharks owe the Red Wings nothing further.
Stuart's wife, teenage stepdaughter and two younger boys have remained in the San Jose area while Stuart played with Detroit. The resulting strain prompted him to announce last season that he wasn't likely to return after his four-year, $15 million contract expires at the end of this month.
"I hope it is my final destination," Stuart said after being picked up by San Jose. "I've lived here in the offseason ever since I was traded, and I have a lot of respect for the organization."
Stuart had 36 goals and 117 assists in 377 games with the Sharks before being traded to the Boston Bruins on Nov. 30, 2005, as part of the deal that brought Joe Thornton to San Jose. He had short stints with the Calgary Flames and the Los Angeles Kings before landing in Detroit at the 2008 trade deadline.
Stuart said he has loved his time in Detroit, where he helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2008. He had six goals and 15 assists in 81 games last season, while leading the Red Wings with 177 hits -- 51 more than any Shark.
But spending more time with family became a higher priority than returning to the Red Wings.
"We tried to never go too long without seeing each other if only for a day, but it does kind of wear you down mentally," Stuart said.
The third player taken in the 1998 draft, Stuart was considered an offensive-minded defenseman at the start of his career. That has changed.
"I went to Detroit and I wasn't really counted on for any kind of offensive output," Stuart said, "so I just focused on other parts of my game. I take pride in being a good, physical player who's hard to play against, working hard every night and being one of the guys that the coaching staff and other players can count on to be giving it his all every night."
Now he describes his game as more well-rounded.
"I don't put up as many points as I did in my first few years in the league," Stuart said, "but I think overall I'm a better player."