CALGARY, Alberta -- Veteran right winger Chris Stewart traveled with the Flyers to Switzerland, Prague, and Western Canada, but he didn’t know if he had a future with the team.
When defenseman Andy Welinski cleared waivers and was sent to the Phantoms, it gave the Flyers an additional $750,000 in salary-cap room. They used that cap space to sign Stewart, a bruising 6-foot-2, 242-pounder who has two 28-goals seasons on his resume.
He received a one-way contract with a $750,000 cap hit. Stewart, 31, was in the Flyers’ lineup Tuesday in Calgary, playing on the fourth line.
Stewart, who brings physicality to the lineup, had been invited to camp on a tryout contract.
“It’s kind of awkward living with a doubt and not knowing your future,” Stewart said of the last few weeks. “But ever since I got here, I felt I was embraced by the team and felt a part of this team. Now that I have a contract, it’s official and it’s a good feeling.”
Stewart has been skating with the team, but said he was “totally kept in the dark” and there were no guarantees the Flyers would offer a contract. “I prefer it that way. You start thinking about all these different scenarios it would drive you crazy.”
He said he felt “blessed by the hockey gods” to be with the Flyers.
Stewart has 160 career goals; he has an outstanding career shootout percentage of 44.4 percent (12 for 27), which is 17th in NHL history among players with at least 25 shootouts shots. He is also 3-for-3 in career penalty shots.
“Chris came into training camp with a great attitude and a strong work ethic," said general manager Chuck Fletcher, who twice traded for Stewart when he was with Minnesota. "He brings size and a veteran presence to our lineup.”
In Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Calgary, Stewart played on the fourth line with left winger Carsen Twarynski and center Michael Raffl, and the big winger finished with three hits in 9:12 of action. Left winger Connor Bunnaman, who had been on that line, was a healthy scratch.
“There’s a lot of people along the way who helped out. A lot of family and friend support -- and people who believed in me,” said Stewart, who played in the British Elite Ice Hockey League last season. “This is for them.”
Coincidentally, Stewart faced Calgary, which had been his last NHL team.
“It kind of works out that the team that you went where [your career] died against the team that brought you back to life,” he said before the loss, smiling.