By: Mandi Mahoney | Check me out on Twitter @phonymahoney
Providence Journal hockey writer and Rhode Island hockey expert Mark Divver announced today that the Providence Bruins signed forward Lee Stempniak to a professional tryout (PTO). Despite the fact that Stempniak has been practicing with the Bruins’ NHL squad since before the start of the season, this is an American Hockey League transaction only.
Stempniak, a National Hockey League journeyman, has played for ten different NHL clubs, which is tied for second-most in the league’s history. In a trade deadline deal on February 29, 2016, Stempniak was traded to the Bruins in exchange for a second and fourth-round draft pick. It was the third year in a row that Stempniak was dealt at the NHL’s trade deadline, as he was known to be a good addition to bring needed scoring punch to teams’ lineups. In his 19 regular season games for Boston, he scored three goals and assisted on seven, totaling ten points as a Bruin. Boston would go on to miss the playoffs that season, unfortunately, and despite a good showing in his 19 games, Stempniak would not be re-signed by General Manager Don Sweeney.
Stempniak signed with the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 2016 and scored 40 points in 2016-17 while playing all 82 games of the season. Last season, however, did not go so well for Stempniak, as he was plagued by injuries, missing 45 games. Ultimately, he scored three goals and notched six helpers for a total of nine points in 37 games for Carolina last year. Given the rough season he had, the 35-year-old wing was hard pressed to find any takers during free agency last summer, despite scoring 469 points in 909 career NHL games. Stempniak has called Boston home since graduating from Dartmouth in 2005.
This is a good move for Providence to gain some NHL and veteran experience for their lineup, however, it is an AHL tryout only, so Stempniak will not be taking an NHL roster spot with the Bruins unless he’s signed to a National Hockey League contract. Stempniak was invited to camp last year and had a good preseason with the Bruins, along with fellow bottom six forward Daniel Winnik. He was not signed, however, as the Bruins were stacked with a plethora of youngsters who would likely be filling out the bottom six for the Black and Gold. Obviously, it would not have been advantageous to the organization to dress a player of advancing age rather than continue to develop their youth.
Per Providence Head Coach Jay Leach, Stempniak will suit up for the P-Bruins at home tonight against the Toronto Marlies, and Sunday against the Springfield Thunderbirds, which will also be played at home, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. One would think the Bruins are unlikely to sign Stempniak to an NHL contract since he’s been practicing with them for a half year at this point, but there is a distinct possibility that the New York native could be looked toward for help in their bottom six, as the Bruins are in dire need of secondary scoring, and Don Sweeney has yet to make any trades this season. If Stempniak can capitalize on the opportunity and doesn’t look outmatched in the AHL, it would not be totally crazy for him to see NHL action again.