Chris Stewart, known for keeping the dressing room light even though his game is far from light, has returned to the Wild.
The Red Bull-guzzling power forward, who loved his one year playing in Anaheim for new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau last season, signed a two-year contract worth $1.15 million a year Friday. Stewart, 28, scored three goals and 11 points in 20 games for the Wild two seasons ago after being a trade-deadline acquisition from Buffalo.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Stewart, who has scored 137 goals in 519 career games. “Best fans I’ve ever played in front of in my life. The decision was easy. Now that they’ve got Bruce back there is a bonus. He’s just a hockey guy, you can approach him and talk to him man to man. He played the game and understands the game. He’s easy to relate to and commands respect.”
Stewart had good chemistry with captain Mikko Koivu two seasons ago, but he’s likely to start next season on the fourth line.
“I’m always one to come in and earn my role,” Stewart said. “I can go up and down the lineup, I can play with top players and can bring that physical and energy side. Whatever they need from me has kind of been my MO. Power play if they need it. I know I can contribute in this league if I get the opportunity.”
Boudreau noted that Stewart played well on Anaheim’s top line at times last season with Ryan Getzlaf and David Perron before he broke his jaw.
“The one thing I was impressed with him last year was how good of a team guy he was,” Boudreau said. “And he stood up for everybody. Anybody that was picked on, he would go right up to them and he knew how to handle it for us. He makes everybody else bigger on the team.”
Between center Eric Staal at 6-4; Stewart, 6-2 and generously listed at 230; and players like Koivu, Nino Niederreiter and now Charlie Coyle playing wing, GM Chuck Fletcher knows the Wild won’t lack size.
“We were one of the worst teams in the league last year on puck recoveries,” Fletcher said. “Does that speak to size? Possibly. … We didn’t seem to have as much offensive zone play last year.”
Former San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock, who played collegiately at Minnesota Duluth, signed a one-year, $650,000 two-way contract that pays him $300,000 in Iowa. The 28-year-old South St. Paul native is 24-19-7 in the NHL with a 2.37 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and four shutouts.
“It’s a great situation for me,” Stalock said. “Last season, I didn’t get a lot of playing time and that comes with not playing well. At the same time, I need to play. To play consistently and get my game back to where I want it is a crucial step to getting back to where I want to be, and that’s obviously the NHL. I just have to worry about playing well. That’s my goal.
“To be able to be close and have family come watch more often is very exciting. I’m really excited to actually play.”
Fletcher indicated he’s no longer trying to trade backup goalie Darcy Kuemper.
“Alex had a great attitude, and he’s very excited about getting down to Des Moines and playing,” Fletcher said. “To have [Devan] Dubnyk, Kuemper and Stalock, that’s the best depth by far we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Iowa also got a boost when the Wild signed veteran minor leaguers VictorBartley, a defenseman with NHL experience, and Pat Cannone, a winger who captained Chicago of the AHL last season.