There are two key things worth knowing about Sturm. The first is that when he’s healthy he can be a phenomenal NHL player, almost exactly what the Canucks need – a defensive stalwart who can help out offensively too. In every one of Sturm’s four (relatively) healthy seasons since the NHL lockout, he has cracked the 20-goal plateau. The second point is that he has some non-trivial health issues. Let’s take those points in order.
Offensively, Sturm has been on average a 27-goal, 24-assist guy over an 82-game regular season. He has played largely against quality opposition, and generally has been a 50/50 guy in terms of zone starts – he can handle the defensive zone assignments, but often ends up playing on a scoring line. He isn’t really a natural on a scoring line at five-on-five; he’s in the Mikael Samuelsson ball park in terms of point production per 60 minutes of ice-time. His possession numbers (shot attempts for and against, which relate very closely to scoring chances) have been good whenever he’s healthy.
Sturm is also an effective power play option. At his worst – generally in seasons where there has been some sort of health issue – he’s a pretty good second unit guy, but at his best he is a legitimate choice to deploy on the first unit with the man advantage.
Sturm has, however, had more than his fair share of injury problems. He was relatively durable until just before the lockout, when he broke his leg. Since then he’s suffered various maladies, including a concussion, an eye injury, various lower body injuries, and most critically a torn MCL and ACL. His blazing speed used to be a trademark component of his game, but he has been forced to adjust as injuries have taken a toll on his body. Still only 32 (although Sturm is 13 seasons into his NHL career), those problems may mean that the end of the line is already in sight.
Despite those problems, I think this is a solid signing for Vancouver. They limit their risk by keeping the term down to a single year; if things don’t work out both parties can walk away. The dollar figure, at $2.25 million, will represent a significant underpayment if Sturm can stay healthy and play to the level that he has in recent years. If he can play at that level, he might be a great fit alongside Ryan Kesler.