The Best Signings of the Offseason, And Why the Sharks Should Have Signed Them, Part 1

In this series of articles, I will be taking an in-depth look at what I consider to be the 20 best value free agent signings of the offseason, in no particular order. These are not necessarily the best players signed this offseason, they are the best signings, the best deals. Contract and cap hit are taken into account just as much as the player’s quality.

For each signing, I will first detail what makes the signing a good one from a neutral perspective, and then I will discuss why the signing would have benefitted the Sharks. Readers who are not Sharks fans can skip the Sharks specific sections completely, or substitute their team in when reading. Enjoy!

ANTHONY STEWART – RW – CAROLINA HURRICANES
Age. 26. Height. 6’3″. Weight. 230 lbs. Shoots. Right.
Contract. 2 years, 1.8M.
2010-2011 Stats. 80GP, 14G, 39PTS, -10 plus/minus, 55PIM.

At 6’3″, 230 lbs, Anthony Stewart is a hard hitting, physical specimen, with speed to burn. He also has an absolute howitzer of a shot, as you can see in the videos below. Power forwards with speed are hard to find in general, but even more so for under one million dollars (per year). Stewart put up 14 goals and 39 points last season with relatively limited ice time, under fifteen minutes a game with only 1:17 a game on the powerplay. In contrast, someone like Steven Stamkos averaged 4:23 of PP time per game. Stewart’s numbers last season were very good for the ice time he received, and he has the ability to produce more if he gets more ice time playing for Carolina.

At only 1.8M for two seasons, a 0.9M cap hit, Anthony Stewart would have made for a good, affordable addition to any team. He is the type of versatile player that can fill in as needed on any of the four lines, although at this point in his development, he is still best suited to play as a depth forward. He does still have untapped potential, however, and he should continue to improve, given the opportunity. To what extent depends on him. But as things are right now, Stewart is already a unique and talented depth power forward, and very good value for what he’s making. The potential for further improvement is just an added bonus.

WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM
Many pundits thought the Sharks were missing that Raffi Torres type of winger on their third line last season. Well, Anthony Stewart is in many respects a bigger, faster, harder shooting, more offensively talented version of Raffi Torres. What more needs to be said? If Raffi Torres is really the type of winger Doug Wilson was looking to add to the third line this offseason, then he missed the boat with Anthony Stewart. Even if Raffi Torres wasn’t the type of winger Doug Wilson was looking to add, he still missed the boat. Anthony Stewart’s game is superior to Torres’ game in enough areas to make him a different player, with more versatility and scoring punch. To a large extent, Stewart is exactly the player Sharks fans and pundits complained the Sharks were missing last postseason against the Vancouver Canucks. Unless they were all wrong, which, to be fair, would not be the first time, Anthony Stewart would have helped the Sharks. In this case I do agree with the masses, and that is why, along with the other reasons mentioned, I believe the Sharks should have signed Anthony Stewart.

As an aside about Stewart’s potential, if you look at Stewart’s face in the videos below, it appears a bit lean for someone so big. This could very well mean nothing, but it could also mean that even at 230 lbs, he has still yet to fill out his body completely. In other words, “potential,” at least potentially …. As big and strong as he already is, there is a chance the 26-year-old Stewart still has room to grow even bigger and stronger. Whether that chance is real or not, Stewart is definitely a player to keep an eye on over the next couple years, and definitely a player I would have brought into the Sharks organization if I was in charge, if not to play a big role for the team now (relatively speaking, i.e third line), then for the future.

ANTHONY STEWART VIDEOS

MORE ANTHONY STEWART VIDEOS

CHRIS HIGGINS – LW – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Age. 28. Height. 6’0″. Weight. 205 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 2 years, 3.8M.
2010-2011 Stats. 62GP, 13G, 28PTS, +5 plus/minus, 16PIM.

Chris Higgins seemed to disappear into a bit of obscurity after being traded from Montreal to the New York Rangers in 2009, but before then he was actually considered to be good up and coming player by most. And once he was traded to Vancouver at last season’s trade deadline, he showed as much. He is just a good, solid two-way player with superior speed and hockey sense, and above average hands. He’s not the fanciest player, but he has some skill and plays an effective, versatile game. You could even compare him to a slightly less offensively productive version of Marco Sturm in his prime, Sturm being another player the Vancouver Canucks signed this offseason. At a 1.9M cap hit, Higgins would not have been my first choice to sign for that money last offseason, but he’s certainly still very good value at that price.

WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM
As Sharks fans witnessed last postseason, the Vancouver Canucks had more team speed than the Sharks. That does not mean speed was the sole reason the Sharks lost to the Canucks, or even the biggest, or that the Sharks cannot beat the Canucks without adding more speed. But it does mean that speed is one of the advantages the Canucks held over the Sharks last postseason, and if the Sharks wanted to take that advantage away, they would’ve needed to add more speed to their lineup. Adding Chris Higgins would have accomplished that. But so would have re-signing Scott Nichol to play 20 minutes a night on the first line. In other words, speed is not everything, and you need other skills to go along with it in order to be more than a fourth line player. Higgins has the complete game to fit in with any team in most any secondary role. He would have been a great fit to play on the Sharks third line, and fill in on the second line in place of an injured teammate. He is also adept at adhering his play to a structured system, which is important when you’re playing for Mclellan.

At 3.8M over two years, Higgins is good value and would have made a solid addition to the Sharks lineup.

CHRIS HIGGINS VIDEOS

MORE CHRIS HIGGINS VIDEOS

MATT D’AGOSTINI – RW – ST. LOUIS BLUES
Age. 24. Height. 6’0″. Weight. 200 lbs. Shoots. Right.
Contract. 2 years, 3.3M.
2010-2011 Stats. 82GP, 21G, 46PTS, +8 +/-, 40PIM.

Matt D’Agostini is a 6’0″, 200 lbs forward with above average speed, good balance and strength in his legs, and good hands. He has a sturdy 200 lbs build in the mold of other mid-sized players like Dustin Brown and Cal Clutterbuck, though he does not hit nearly as much as those two. Despite the lower hit totals, D’Agostini is a sufficiently gritty player who does well along the boards, and is not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice.

At only 24 years old, D’Agostini is just starting to come into his own offensively. He scored a career high 21 goals and 46 points last season, and was +8 for an average St Louis team. And he did all this in less than fifteen minutes of ice time per game, and less than two minutes of powerplay time. This would suggest he has the potential to put up 25 goals or more with more ice time. Overall, this is just a quality young player who can score, grind, and play both sides of the puck, and the deal he signed with the Blues puts him on a very low 1.65M cap hit for the next two seasons. To give you an idea of what great value that is, former Shark Devin Setoguchi, who scored only one more goal (and five less points) than D’Agostini last season, is making 3M per season, and many consider that to be a discount. D’Agostini’s contract makes Setoguchi’s look like a gross overpayment, when the reality is far from it, and that’s why D’Agostini was one of the best value signings of the offseason.

WHY THE SHARKS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HIM
D’Agostini is another quality player whose versatility and scoring ability would have helped the Sharks. That’s the immediate return, and it alone would have been enough to justify 3.3M over two seasons. But just as great a reason to like D’Agostini is his potential for the future. D’Agostini has all the tools to become an excellent second line winger of the two-way scorer variety. Again, think a variation of Dustin Brown, or a less physical, more productive Cal Clutterbuck, or a shorter variation of Teddy Purcell. For those reading familiar with prospects, Jeremy Morin is one we may see in the NHL this season whose game has some similarities to D’Agostini. But comparisons aside, the facts are this: D’Agostini is a 24 year old 20 goals scorer with two-way capabilities, who is making relatively low money for the NHL. Two seasons from now, D’Agostini may be a 25 or 30 goal scorer, yet if the Sharks had signed him to an identical or similar deal to which he signed with the St Louis Blues, he would still be delivering that great production for only 1.65M. What more needs to be said? That is why the Sharks and every other team should have tried to woo him away from the Blues.

MATT D’AGOSTINI VIDEOS

MORE MATT D’AGOSTINI VIDEOS

ANTHONY STEWART VIDEOS
Anthony Stewart Highlight #1
Anthony Stewart Highlight #2
Anthony Stewart Highlight #3
Back To Your Place In The Article

CHRIS HIGGINS VIDEOS
Chris Higgins Highlight #1
Chris Higgins Highlight #2
Back To Your Place In The Article

MATT D’AGOSTINI VIDEOS
Matt D’Agostini Highlight #1
Matt D’Agostini Highlight #2
Matt D’Agostini Highlight #3
Back To Your Place In The Article

Hockey fans, thank you for reading! We hope you enjoyed this article. On a different note, I will be doing a Q&A blog in the near future, so we encourage you to send in your Sharks or NHL related questions either in the comments, or on twitter @SharkCircle, or via email at SharkCircle@Gmail.com. Every single question besides the inevitable ones asking me to screw myself will be answered in the blog, that is a promise, so please don’t hesitate to send them in!

Written By Shark Circle

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