Minnesota Wild Acquire Chris Stewart
In an 11th hour move, the Minnesota Wild have acquired winger Chris Stewart from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for the Wild’s 2017 2nd round draft pick.
As a part of the trade the Sabres will be retaining half of his salary, according to Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press.
The Buffalo Sabres are taking half of Chris Stewart's contract as the forward heads to the #MNWild for a 2017 second-round pick.
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) March 2, 2015
Stewart is a divisive figure in this year’s trade market. He’s a big forward capable of playing a very physical game and he had some great years with the Blues, but he has kind of disappeared since getting dealt to the Sabres at last year’s trade deadline in a deal that sent Ryan Miller to St. Louis.
In his last 106 games with the St. Louis Blues he scored 33 goals and 29 assists. In 66 games with the Sabres he has 11 goals and 14 assists. He’s always had some cushy zone starts, but putting that another way he had a 2.1 P/60 in 2012-13 with the Blues, a 1.6 P/60 with the Blues last year (including six games with the Sabres where he went without a point), and a 1.1 P/60 with the Sabres this year. It’s not a great trend.
However, it’s been clear that Stewart hasn’t been happy in Buffalo and who would be really? It has to be tough to go out and give it your all for an organization that is actively trying to make it difficult for you to win.
One of the big question marks that lingers over Stewart is work ethic. Has he been pegged as a player who only tries when he feels like it. Is that because playing in Buffalo is terrible or is there something larger at work there? It’s a prevalent enough viewpoint that even Michael Russo pointed it out shortly after the trade was announced on TSN.
Chris Stewart scratched some for Buffalo. Stewart will need to buy in to Wild's work ethic, defensive game. But big body, power fwd.
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) March 2, 2015
That last bit about TSN? I phrased it that way because it wasn’t the Sabres that informed Stewart of the trade, but TSN’s James Duthie. Take a listen in on this.
Listen as James Duthie tells Chris Stewart he was traded to the Wild http://t.co/3qnrCyH8as #TradeCentre pic.twitter.com/NtM2EeqS0u
— Leafs Lunch 1050 (@LeafsLunch1050) March 2, 2015
Stewart is divisive and it’s not clear where he fits into the lineup following the acquisition of Sean Bergenheim. That’s especially true because of how well the fourth line has been playing with Erik Haula, Kyle Brodziak, and Justin Fontaine playing incredibly effective and looking like they’re ready for playoff hockey.
Add to that confusion that the team expects Ryan Carter and Matt Cooke to be healthy before the end of the season and it’ll be interesting to see how coach Mike Yeo makes these lines work.
At a minimum, if you can chalk up some of Stewart’s difficulties in Buffalo to psychological effects, then there’s the possibility that playing with a contender again will bring out the best in him. At his best, he doesn’t drive a whole lot of play but can bring a physical presence to the team, is a versatile winger who can play a role on a number of lines, and is a guy who might slot in nicely to a netfront job on the second power play unit.
Stewart is in the final year of a contract with a $3.235M cap hit. He will likely, short of an incredible turnaround with the Wild, be getting a smaller contract over the summer. The draft pick is in 2017 because the Wild were unwilling to give up their 2015 pick and the Sabres already own the Wild’s 2016 2nd round pick from last year’s deadline deal that brought Matt Moulson to the land of 10,000 lakes for an ineffectual visit.