The offseason signing news has been slow and steady for the Ducks, in recent days bringing back tough guy Brian McGrattan, and adding to the organizational depth bringing in Harry Zolnierczyk. With Matt Beleskey's departure for Boston leaving a hole in the Anaheim forward corps for a physical forward with occasional scoring touch, General Manager Bob Murray has once again made a 'buy low' move. As originally reported by St. Louis Blues rinkside reporter Andy Strickland:
Free agent Chris Stewart is nearing a one-year deal with the #NHLducks and won't be returning to the #MNwild. Announcement expected soon— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) July 11, 2015
It's another interesting stab at potential in a player whose production has not lived up to expectations of his first round, 18th overall selection by the Colorado Avalanche in 2006. In his seven years in the league Stewart has bounced to four different teams, most recently with the Minnesota Wild.
EDIT: UPDATE AS OF 3 PM
Orange County Register Ducks beat writer Eric Stephens confirms the earlier report, while updating with financial information for the signing:
Can confirm earlier reports of Ducks nearing agreement with winger Chris Stewart on one-year deal. Hearing around $1.5-2M range.— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) July 11, 2015
EDIT: UPDATE AS OF 5 PM
It's official according to Sportsnet's John Shannon:
Chris Stewart signs for 1 year. 1.7 million for the year.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) July 11, 2015
(Chris Stewart's regular season & playoff career stats courtesy of hockey-reference.com)
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Considering Murray's track record with recent reclamation projects, Dustin Penner turning in to a 2014 fourth round pick and Dany Heatley plus a 2015 third round pick becoming Tomas Fleischmann, why not take a chance on Stewart?
The bigger question though is which Chris Stewart will the Ducks be getting? Is it the scoring forward who has tantalized by putting up back to back near 30-goal seasons as well as three years putting up .35+ goals/game, or the skater that Blues color man Darren Pang one time called out on broadcast as a 'chief example' of St. Louis not playing hard enough?
Pessimistic projections would have Stewart putting up on the low end of 10-15 goals and around 25 points, while optimistically he could be good for 20+ goals and 35-40 points. In either case those numbers are well above the career averages of Beleskey, while Stewart will provide about half as many hits per game based on averages from last season. Considering Stewart's two years of 30+ goal scoring with the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL and his propensity to get to the front of the net, this could also be an attempt to get a more skilled forward to place with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the first line. With the added motivation of being on just a one year deal, Anaheim is adding another rugged forward with minimal risk but plenty of potential reward.