CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz reported Wednesday, Sept. 4 that the San Jose Sharks have invited checking-line forward Anthony Stewart for a tryout to training camp that begins in under a week.
This move will almost certainly be of no help to the biggest problem the team faces—scoring. Stewart had 14 goals and 25 assists in 80 games during the 2010-11 season, but has 13 goals and 19 assists in his other 182 career NHL games. He was not active for the Los Angeles Kings in 2013.
Still, the 25th pick in the 2003 draft provides them size (6 ft., 3 in. and 230 lbs.) and should be coming into his prime at 28 years old. The Sharks also lack depth at forward, with line projections suggesting the two reserves they will turn to have combined for just over 10 NHL games at the position between them.
San Jose had 56 total games in 2013 from players beyond the 12 projected to dress. The 13th and 14th forwards accounted for 41 games, and even in the Stanley Cup playoffs they had five total games played from those two spots. In the last full season, the Sharks had 134 total games played beyond the 12th forward.
Even in the 2010-11 season that lacked the trades that actually diminish the veracity of those numbers, there were a total of 146 games played by forwards that were not among the 12 with the most games played. Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager were the only additions and they cut ties with no one, meaning they still needed 65 games out of forwards no higher than 13th on the depth chart.
Kurz also reported that sources have refuted previous reports that Wellwood will also get a training camp invite, saying the parties have not spoken. He would actually be a better fit for San Jose's immediate needs. He is familiar with the system and team, and has some history of scoring (235 points in 489 games). However, he is not only two years older but would likely cost more.
The reality is the Sharks do not even have the maneuverability to clear even $1 million without losing some of the already scant forward talent. Once Martin Havlat can be put on long-term injured reserve, they will probably only be able to add someone for a scoring role via trade, meaning they could lose someone to facilitate it. Since they cannot get a scoring-line forward (their biggest need—one addition would provide both scoring and depth) for what Stewart will cost if he makes the team, this move gives them a good chance to find the depth they need for what they can afford.
He should not only make the team but push for a daily role, giving the Sharks 13 legitimate NHL forwards. With two reserves that could make some teams, they could lose three depth players without being hurt much. There are other reserves capable of handling spot roles—San Jose used three more players in 2010-11 on the "Worcester Shuttle" (so-named for shuttling players to and from the team's AHL affiliate) to play in 27 games between them.
Thus, San Jose should have enough depth even if a trade is not forthcoming and Havlat does not return. They have three players (Raffi Torres, Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl) with the potential to fill a scoring-line role on at least a short-term basis, Tyler Kennedy who already can, Brent Burns with the potential to be a stud and Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture who already are first-line forwards.
Contenders need at least seven scoring forwards to not only roll three lines that can produce, but absorb an injury to one scorer. The only way the Sharks have that—even if Stewart makes the team—is if one of the three players with the potential to can step up to a scoring-line role. That may well happen, but still would leave them with the minimum it takes.
Unfortunately, the ability to make the move that will take them from that precarious position is likely months away. In the meantime, the decision to invite Stewart poses no risk to the team, and was about as good an option from the revisited list available to them.
CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz reported Wednesday, Sept. 4 that the San Jose Sharks have invited checking-line forward Anthony Stewart to training camp for a tryout.