One of the lower key signings the Canes made on July 1st was signing right winger Anthony Stewart to a two-year deal worth $1.8 mil (worth about $900k a year). Some may know him as the brother of St. Louis Blues winger Chris Stewart but what's more relevant to us is that he netted 14 goals and had 39 points in 80 games with the Atlanta Thrashers last season. That makes him sound like a pretty good player, doesn't it? I know that Paul Maurice has a way of making the most out of his roster and Eric Staal is a player who can make his linemates better, but my expectations for Stewart aren't nearly as high as some people's and I don't think that he should be used on the first line when there's other options available.
I already examined Stewart a little bit in my post where I looked at Carolina's possible options for winger this season and stated that he spent most of his career as an AHL call-up before Atlanta gave him a shot last season and he earned himself a place in their top-six thanks to a hot start. He was one of their more sheltered forwards in terms of zone starts, but he saw some tough competition and was not that impressive territorially, so that tells me that he was a below average top-six forward in Atlanta. Why would this change in Carolina? Staal is a better center than either Nik Antropov or Bryan Little so that could possibly make him a little more effective here but that isn't a sure bet. Also, that 14 goal season he had? Just a short-lived hot streak.
|Time Period||Goals||Shooting Pct.|
|Oct. 8 - Nov. 30 (25 Games)||7||14.9%|
|Dec. 1 - Apr. 10 (55 Games)||7||7.21%|
Half of his goals came during his hot start during the first two months of the season where he was getting a little lucky with how he shot the puck. He eventually came back down to Earth during the rest of the season and was not that good at driving possession all season. He posted a corsi rating that was below the Thrashers season average with the score tied and it's usually never a good sign when a player has a lot of offensive zone starts and low corsi on rating like Stewart did.
I would personally rather see Zach Boychuk get a chance on the first line before Stewart, seeing how I think he has more potential to be a great player there and has a higher upside than Stewart. What about the third line? I already made a case for Drayson Bowman to get a look there but I'd imagine that Stewart would be considered for that spot too. The problem with this is that the third line with Sutter and LaRose draws a lot of defensive zone starts and Stewart did not appear to be good defensively in Atlanta, so I don't know if he's an ideal fit for this job.
All of this brings us back to the same question here. What is Anthony Stewart's role on the Hurricanes? Jim Rutherford felt that he was good enough to sign to a two-year contract, but I highly doubt he thought that he could fill the hole on the first line by signing Stewart to a contract worth $900k (and if he did then I'm going to have serious problems), and that the younger players in the system are the way to go. Stewart was also never much of a goal-scorer at the pro-level, so I don't think the first line is the place for him. He's also not good enough defensively to play on the third line so where does he fit on this team? Hopefully we have the answer soon.