Minnesota Wild Need To Re-Sign Chris Stewart


The Minnesota Wild become a much better team with Chris Stewart on it, and the team should be worried about signing him before he hits free agency.

Maybe its machismo, maybe its a general disgust of weakness in a sport where toughness and ruggedness is so revered that the accusation of being called soft is rather damning.  I think most Wild fans have heard that claim bantered about team message boards and on various call-in hockey radio shows like KFAN‘s Beyond the Pond and Wild Fanline.  

Minnesota Wild fans have weighed in over opponents like the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets taking liberties with ‘our’ players.  Seeing Mikael Granlund tossed like a rag doll by the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien or assaulted after the draw by Cody McLeod was enough to make some fans’ blood boil.  They called in asking where was the response from their teammates and who was going to step up to hold such thuggery accountable.  The Wild now have that answer in Chris Stewart.

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Chris Stewart has the size (6’2″, 231lbs) and toughness the Minnesota Wild sorely needed.  With his arrival, teams stopped taking many liberties with Wild players knowing they would have to answer against a strong and powerful player who isn’t just a pair of knuckles either.  The day of the one-dimensional enforcer are over.

Chris Stewart has proven he can be that rare combination of toughness, size, speed and skill that has resulted in a tremendous fit playing on a line along side Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter.  This line has shown it can be very effective working the puck down low, using their 6’2″+ bodies to protect the puck as the smallish blueline of the Calgary Flames found out a week ago.

"“Chris Stewart is a big, strong guy, certainly a guy who brings a lot of toughness to our team.  But he’s a player who has contributed offensively, can play on the power play, and is willing to go to the net.  With the type of players we have on our team, he complements them really well.” ~ Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher to NHL.com"

In some ways its ironic that Chris Stewart is now with the Minnesota Wild.  Back on November 27th, 2010 while he was win the Colorado Avalanche, Stewart dropped the gloves with Kyle Brodziak.  At the time, Stewart was off to a torrid scoring pace for the Avalanche after having had a 28-goal, 64-point in 2009-10.  At the time, league experts were lauding Chris Stewart as the next great power forward but that all changed after this fight.  Stewart decided he had enough of Brodziak’s chirping and wanted to humble him with a fight despite the fact his team was up by two goals.  Even though he won the tilt, he ended up breaking his hand forcing him to miss considerable time.

It is arguable to say Chris Stewart’s career has been in sort of a holding pattern ever since.  Later that same season Stewart was traded to St. Louis along with Kevin Shattenkirk for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement as well as a 1st round pick.  Stewart was never able to fit in with the Blues and he was later dealt to the Sabres.  Now he’s with the Minnesota Wild with a tremendous chance to resurrect his career.

More reasons for Minnesota Wild to sign Chris Stewart

Chris Stewart is just 27 years old, which makes him slightly younger than the team’s core of Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, and Zach Parise.  He is in his prime years as a hockey player and he’s a player who knows he has a lot to prove.   I also believe he recognizes he is on a team with Stanley Cup potential and after having played on a bottom feeder in the Buffalo Sabres I think his arrival in Minnesota has re-kindled his spirit for the game.

"“He’s got a real good understanding of what his identity is, and obviously he’s a leader in that regard, I’m real pleased with his game at both ends of the ice.” ~ Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo in reference to Chris Stewart after the team’s 6-3 win over St. Louis on March 21st, 2015"

One intangible that is impossible to quantify is the confidence level as a team that is gained by having him in the lineup.  The ‘big brother effect’ has emboldened other players to play their game with the confidence of knowing he has their back.  Mathew Dumba‘s big open ice hit on Vladimir Tarasenko was a great example of this.  Against a club like the Blues, a team that has enjoyed intimidating and abusing the Wild for years, a hit like Dumba’s would’ve been inviting significant retribution, but that didn’t happen in part because of Stewart’s presence.  This is the kind of physical accountability the franchise hasn’t had since Derek Boogaard.

In the military they would call Chris Stewart a ‘force multiplier’ where he makes the rest of the team around him better.  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has enjoyed having 3 solid scoring lines he can look to create offense.  The balance also forces opponents to pick their poison as to which line they’re going to try to shut down.  Each of these has a nice blend of youth and veteran savvy.

In an ideal world the Wild would not have had to sign a guy like Stewart because former 2nd round pick (39th Overall, 2010) Brett Bulmer, a 6’3″, 204lbs winger that is mobile, skilled but can play with an edge is ready to go.  But his development hasn’t turned out as hoped and with all of the 2nd round picks this organization has traded away near the deadline the past few years the team needs something more than just a rental player to show for it.  Stewart fits Minnesota’s needs well and has proven he can be productive in the team’s lineup.

In my opinion, Stewart supplants the need for guys like Matt Cooke ($3 million), Sean Bergenheim ($2.75 million), Ryan Carter ($725,000) who were brought in for their relative toughness and grit.  Both of these players are smaller, older and slower than Stewart which is why I don’t think you let him get away.  I think his presence and ability is important enough to make him a priority to re-sign this summer.  I think the team makes an offer with a similar dollar amount to his current contract of around $4.2 million for 3-4 years.  It is a fair deal given his production and role with the team.

Last season by the time the playoffs started it was obvious that for whatever reason Matt Moulson didn’t fit in.  He was unable to establish any chemistry and the team wisely chose to part ways.  As Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher so often says “its about fit” and Chris Stewart seems to fit and I fully expect the team to try to sign him to an extension.

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