The Edmonton Oilers have signed twenty-four year-old forward Gregory Stewart to a one-year contract today. When I saw that Stewart had scored 45 points in 174 AHL games, I figured that this deal was an AHL contract. But then I remembered that it was announced on the Oilers' website, so it must be (at least) a two-way deal. Thus, the Oilers now have forty-six NHL contracts, although that includes all of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, and Toni Rajala and any unsigned restricted free agents. So why did the Oilers sign this palooka? His other numbers.
As you may have guessed, Gregory Stewart knows how to fight. In fact, he has almost as many fights as he does points. If we include his time in the NHL, Stewart has played in exactly 200 regular season games, has registered 46 points and has engaged in 40 fights. Six of those fights came at the NHL level and hockeyfights.com gave him a 2-3-1 record in those contests including a loss to Bryan McCabe and Brandon Prust. At 6'2'' and just under 200 lbs. he's more cruiserweight than heavyweight, which means he actually needs to be able to play a bit in order to get an NHL job, and given the fact that he played twenty-six games with the Montreal Canadiens, it seems like that must be the case.
But I don't see it. The bulk of Stewart's NHL time came in 2008-09 and he was beat up pretty badly on the shot clock despite some of the softest ice time available. It's only twenty games, but if you can't score, you're not an enforcer and you can't tread water, you're probably not going to stick around for very long. I didn't check, but it strikes me as doubtful that Stewart was taking on anything resembling tough competition in the AHL; it just isn't the typical role of guys who lead their team in penalty minutes get. So he was probably getting sheltered there as well, and he did tread water, posting a +8 in 2008-09 and a +6 in 2009-10 on two very good renditions of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
And that's what can be expected of Stewart this year in Oklahoma City. He's a guy that will play on the fourth line and not hurt you. For the Oilers, this seems like a waste of one of their fifty contracts. If the player doesn't have NHL potential, don't give him an NHL contract. It's a simple rule that I wish the Oilers followed with every contract instead of just most of them.