The Canes, who lost right wing Erik Cole to free agency on Friday, have signed right wing Anthony Stewart to a two-year contract, the team said today. The deal will pay Stewart $800,000 next season, and $1 million in 2012-13.
"He was on our short list of free agents," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "Once Erik made the decision to go elsewhere, we looked at him a lot closer.
"Last year was his first full year in the league and he took a big step forward. He's a big guy who skates well. We feel that step forward should be continued at this point in time. With his size, he can do a lot of things and especially when he's going to the net."
Signing Stewart does not preclude the Canes looking to pick up another forward in a trade, Rutherford said.
"But it does take the urgency out of us having to do anything before the start of the season," he said. "We will keep a watch out for any players we feel can upgrade our team, but we are not pressed to do so."
Stewart, 26, posted career highs in goals (14), assists (25), points (39) and games played (80) with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010-11. The La Salle, Que., native finished the season ranked tied for fifth among Thrashers skaters in assists, tied for sixth on the team in goals and seventh in scoring.
Stewart, listed at 6-3 and 230 pounds, has scored 18 goals, earned 33 assists (51 points) and accumulated 93 penalty minutes in 185 career NHL regular-season games with Florida and Atlanta since turning professional in 2004. The Panthers drafted Stewart in the first round, 25th overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Stewart's younger brother, Chris, is a forward for the St. Louis Blues.