As per Bob McKenzie, a trio of players with NHL experience are on the waiver wire today. Are any of them particularly interesting?
Anthony Stewart, Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes picked up Stewart for a song this summer, signing the former first round pick to a two-year, $900,000 per year deal. The now 27-year old was originally drafted 25th overall by Florida in 2003, and was coming off a career-best 14-goal, 39-point season with the defunct Atlanta Thrashers. Why was a 6’2” former first-round pick coming off the best season of his career available so cheaply? Why is he available now?
A lot of it has to do with Stewart’s track record. Here are his point totals over the last five seasons:
- 2006-07: 62 games, 27 points (AHL)
- 2007-08: 54 games, 31 points (AHL)
- 2008-09: 59 games, seven points (NHL)
- 2009-10: 77 games, 31 points (AHL)
- 2010-11: 80 games, 39 points (NHL)
As a rule, 30-point guys in the AHL don’t suddenly turn into 30-point guys in the NHL. Carolina’s seen that this year – Stewart has 13 points in 50 games played. He’s a guy without the hands to play on a skill line, and he doesn’t have the defensive chops to make it in a checking role (this year, for example, he’s playing a ton of offensive minutes, typically against bad players and is getting outshot worse than almost anyone else on the Hurricanes’ roster). The scoring chances paint an even bleaker picture than the shot clock does.
Stewart’s available now because for the bulk of his professional career he’s shown himself to be an AHL-calibre player. He’s played to that level this season, and that’s probably why Carolina’s sending him down.
Zach Hamill, Boston Bruins
Zach Hamill (no relation) isn’t just any prospect – he was the eighth overall pick in 2007. Unfortunately, he’s basically been backpedalling since his draft year. When the Bruins selected Hamill, he was fresh off a 93-point season in 69 games in the WHL. The next year he barely crossed the point-per-game threshold in the same league, and so it wasn’t a big shock when he managed less than 30 points as a rookie in the AHL.
Hamill’s now in his fourth full professional season. After a relatively strong year for an offensively inept Providence Bruins team in 2010-11, he earned his most protracted NHL stint to date this season – 16 games. During that span, the playmaker has picked up just two assists.
Hamill’s the kind of guy that might yet be able to carve out a role in the NHL for himself, if he can get the scoring to come. It’s a long-shot to be sure, in no small part because despite a strong play-making game Hamill isn’t a shooter – he’s a career 10% guy in the AHL over chunks of four season, and doesn’t fire the puck a lot. He has real playmaking skill, but he needs an extended audition on a team desperate for the help. Additionally, skating has been a major concern going back to draft day – for a smallish offensive guy, Hamill’s just not as fast as he probably needs to be.
There are definite things to like about the player – his play-making, his vision, even his positional smarts at both ends of the ice – but most undersized offensive players without a threatening shot or much speed struggle to translate their offense from the AHL to the NHL. When that AHL-level offense hasn’t been especially good (and in Hamill’s case, it hasn’t), the odds of a lengthy career in the NHL dwindle.
Andrew Murray, San Jose Sharks
While the two guys who went in the first round will get most of the attention, Andrew Murray might be the best of the three on waivers today. If the guy had any scoring talent at all…
That’s been Murray’s issue, going back to his first season as a professional. Murray turned 24 early in his rookie pro season, having just come out of the U.S. college system, and spent two and a half years polishing his game in the AHL before making the jump to the majors, where he’s been for the last 200+ games of his career.
Murray’s big, he can kill penalties, he’s passable on the faceoff circle, he plays the game with an edge, he’s rarely at fault defensively, and he’s basically everything a team could ask for on their fourth line. Not only does Murray hit relentlessly, but he’s one of the most disciplined energy players in the game – in a 220 game NHL career, he has just 36 PIMs. Again, however: if only he could score. Murray put up 29 points in the AHL as a rookie pro and that number remains his personal best.
Murray spent most of his Blue Jackets’ career as a defensive zone specialist (when he was in the lineup – everywhere he’s gone he’s been an end-of-roster kind of guy) and for that reason it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up in Vancouver; he just looks like a perfect fit for their fourth line and his lack of offense and relatively low profile might allow him to sneak by other teams. He’s a useful NHL’er right now, in a specialized role, and that’s not something one can say about a lot of guys with scoring totals that low.