FLYERS MAY FIND A ROSTER SPOT FOR 6-2, 240-POUND CHRIS STEWART!

By Sally Fahey

Thirty-two-year-old Chris Stewart started training this summer in Toronto hoping to find a job this fall.

He has 160 goals, 321 points and 729 penalty minutes in 652 career regular-season NHL games over 10 seasons with six franchises, and he saw an opening with the Flyers, agreeing to a professional tryout in July.

“It kind of just happened by chance,” said Stewart, one of 16 players across the NHL on PTOs. “Once I saw (the Flyers) got rid of Wayne Simmonds, Dale Weise, and traded Radko Gudas, they didn’t have a lot of physicality in their lineup. That organization made the most sense.”

Plenty of familiar faces didn’t hurt either.

Stewart signed his most recent NHL contract with the Minnesota Wild back in 2016 when Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher was in charge. He was also put on waivers by Fletcher in February 2018 before getting scooped up by the Calgary Flames.

“Things didn’t work out the way I wanted in Minnesota,” said Stewart, who had just 45 points (25 goals, 20 assists) in 146 games with the club. “It was a business move and Chuck was 100 per cent honest with me from Day 1. I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a GM and as a man.

“It’s funny how things come full circle in life.”

Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere, meanwhile, is a member of the newly-hired Alain Vigneault’s staff and played for the Colorado Avalanche when Stewart was a rookie on the team in 2008-09.

“If anyone knows me as a player, it’s definitely those guys,” said the 18th pick in the 2006 draft. “But at the end of the day, no favours are going to be given. I’ve got to take a job, I’ve got to win a job.”

Stewart said even though hockey is trending towards smaller, quicker players, there’s still a need for size and strength — as long as they can skate.

“As much as the game’s changed, you look at the Stanley Cup final and the last two winners, they’re both physical teams,” he said. “Come playoff time, you definitely need a couple guys in your lineup that bring that sandpaper and can wear teams down. On top of that, I’m confident in my offensive abilities. My last year in the league I had 10 goals in 50 games on the fourth line playing 11 minutes.

“I can skate with these young guys. I’m a big guy, I can move. I’m going into Philly to make some noise.”

But the thought did cross Stewart’s mind last season that his NHL life might be over. If that was the case, he wasn’t going to lose any sleep.

It will be an uphill battle to make the Flyers — players on PTOs are without contracts and promised nothing — but he’s eager to give it one more shot.

“I’m very comfortable in my own skin,” Stewart said. “I played 10 years in the NHL. I’d give anything to have an 11th, but if I don’t is that going to make me feel any less successful? I don’t think so. I wanted to put my best foot forward and have one last summer of giving everything I had.

“Whatever happens in October, I’m willing to live with it.”

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