The St. Louis Blues have agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $3 million for restricted free agent right winger Chris Stewart, whose offensive production dipped to 15 goals and 30 points last season.
Stewart and the Blues were able to avoid the Friday arbitration deadline by agreeing to a deal that could lead to a bigger one down the road depending on his production and performance.
"I think it's a good fit and it's an important year for Chris coming up here," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said of the new contract. "Now he can focus on preparing and I really think he's going to have an outstanding season. His role on our team is to be a strong power forward that produces offense -- and it's something that I know he has in him and I know he can accomplish."
Stewart, 24, just finished a two-year, $5.7 million deal he had signed with Colorado. He made $3.25 million with the Blues last season.
"I think it's obviously not where I wanted to be going into this year, but they handled it first-class and came up with a respectable number I thought was within range," said Stewart, who is working with a personal trainer and nutritionist in Toronto this summer. "We got it done without going to arbitration and both sides are happy, that was something we didn't want to do.
"We've got the whole summer now to prepare for next season. We got it banged out and we're good to go."
The 24-year-old winger also had two goals in seven playoff games, but was a healthy lineup scratch twice during the postseason. Since joining the Blues he has 30 goals and 53 points in 105 games.
In just 26 games with the Blues in 2010-11 after coming over in a trade with Colorado, Stewart had 15 goals and 23 points in 26 games.
That blazing start helped fuel incredibly high expectations, as did the fact Stewart had scored 28 goals in each of his previous two seasons.
"That was definitely a lot to deal with, coming to camp right away and everybody was saying '30-goal scorer and 40-goal scorer," Stewart said. "No excuses. I'm going to come in and work on being me and playing my game, showing what I can do on the ice."
A year ago, the Blues signed young winger T.J. Oshie to a one-year contract that in essence asked Oshie to prove he was worthy of a multi-year deal.
Oshie, a restricted free agent, scored 19 goals and tied for the team-scoring lead with 54 points.
"He was in the exact same situation the year before me," Stewart said. "He went out and he proved it, so I can't look far for inspiration -- it's right there knocking at my door. I'm going to work hard."
Armstrong said he realizes that the team and Stewart both found disappointing areas in his game last season.
"We're a production-oriented business and I don't think he or we are looking for excuses," Armstrong said. "We're looking for results."
Armstrong said the Blues are looking for more consistent production from Stewart, something he has done throughout most of his NHL career.
"We saw flashes of it and we saw some good play, but when given the opportunity there were other players that seized that ice and didn't give it back," Armstrong said when asked about Stewart's reduced role. "That's where he fell into a little bit of a victim of circumstances. I'm confident he can wrestle that ice back in training camp and doesn't give it up."
Stewart was acquired by the Blues along with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a conditional second-round draft pick from Colorado for defenseman Erik Johnson, center Jay McClement and a first-round pick.
Stewart was the 18th overall pick in 2006 by the Avalanche, the same year the Blues selected Johnson first overall.
The Blues won the Central Division, challenged for first overall in the NHL standings and turned in the second-best regular season in franchise history.
"It was obviously tough (for me), but the way I looked at it is you've got to be professional about it," Stewart said. "The first thing is the team, that's the adage I believe in and that's the way I was brought up. We were winning hockey games, we were playing the best hockey we've been playing in a long time, and it was working.
"I bought into my role and tried to add in offensively when I could."
The Blues were swept in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
"We ran into a hot opponent in L.A. that ended up winning the whole thing," Stewart said. "I definitely think the franchise took some steps in the right direction."
The Blues finished their pro meetings Thursday and have until July 1 to deal with restricted free agents Oshie and David Perron and also make decision on a number of unrestricted free agents.
Among the top names on that list are defensemen Barret Jackman and Carlo Colaiacovo and forwards Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott, Scott Nichol and Chris Porter.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.