The Minnesota Wild have decisions to make on 12 unrestricted free agents. Most should be easy, some will not.
After getting knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive season, general manager Chuck Fletcher and his front office staff needs to identify how they can get to the next level. That begins with their own free agents.
One of those unrestricted free agents is right wing Chris Stewart. Here is a breakdown of the trade deadline acquisition.
2014-15 Team(s): Buffalo Sabres (NHL), Minnesota Wild (NHL)
2014-15 Statistics: 61 games played, 11 goals, 14 assists, 25 points, 63 penalty minutes, minus-30 rating, 116 shots on goal (Buffalo); 20 games played, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, 25 penalty minutes, plus-4 rating, 39 shots on goal (Minnesota – regular season); 8 games played, 2 assists, 2 penalty minutes, minus-3 rating, 9 shots on goal (Minnesota – playoffs)
Outlook: The Wild sent a second round draft pick in 2017 to acquire Stewart from the Sabres minutes before the trade deadline. General manager Chuck Fletcher paid a hefty price for a big, physical, tough and talented player with effort consistency and effort concerns.
Stewart was happy to join the Wild when he found out about the deal — live on TSN during their trade deadline coverage. He got off to a very good start with two goals and two assists in his first five games with the Wild and also got into a scrap with good friend Cody McLeod during the Colorado Avalanche’s final contest of the season against the Wild.
As his tenure with the Wild wore on, Stewart proved to be a very streaky player. He recorded points in consecutive games or two out of three and then would go consecutive games without points.
When the Wild got to the playoffs, Stewart was good early in the series against the St. Louis Blues. However, once the Blues decided to play hockey, Stewart was a non-factor. He made one really good play to set up Nino Niederreiter’s goal in Game 5 in St. Louis, but was otherwise not good in the last three games against the Blues and the first two of the Chicago Blackhawks series.
The Wild will consider bringing back Stewart, but after looking back at his time with the team, it is probably best to let him walk. His contract demands will definitely factor into the decision. The Wild will not have the room to re-sign him and whatever he receives from another team will likely be too much. The Wild cannot afford to overpay anyone, especially a player that really didn’t give them much.