Providence Bruins Sign Lee Stempniak to Professional Tryout


photo credit: Brian Babineau / NHL / Getty Images

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.

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Is There A Place In Boston For Winnik/Stempniak?

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

By: Garrett Haydon  |  Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

For years, the Boston Bruins had been a veteran-oriented team that had the occasional young player who stood out. Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, and Blake Wheeler are prime examples of this, but from the years 2009-14 the Bruins were mainly a team comprised of veteran players who had been through the battles of postseason hockey. The likes of Marco Sturm, Shawn Thornton, Miroslav Satan, and Dennis Seidenberg were key pieces of those veteran-laden squads. However, in 2018, times have changed dramatically.

This Bruins team is still comprised of a few key veteran players such as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but the team has gotten significantly younger in recent years with the superb drafting job done by Don Sweeney. The future of this team has never looked brighter, and the youth was one of the biggest reasons for their success last season. So it was kind of a surprise when the Bruins announced they had offered tryout contracts to veteran wingers Daniel Winnik and Lee Stempniak.

Stempniak, of course, spent time during the 2015-16 season with Boston after being traded from the New Jersey Devils. The winger had just 10 points in 19 games and was unable to help the Bruins to the playoffs. Stempniak has performed very well this preseason including a goal the other night against the Red Wings. It’s clear he still has that shooting ability and has the ability to be a strong locker room presence. Stempniak is also very familiar with Boston as he has lived here for the last few summers. He’s also skated with Bruins players in the past so bringing him up to the varsity club at least to start the year might make sense.

The biggest issue with bringing in the 35-year-old would be him potentially hindering the development of younger players trying to make the roster and get ice time. Stempniak’s performance has proved he can still play in this league but maybe not necessarily in Boston. Undoubtedly he would be nothing more than an extra forward so keeping him around might not be the best idea. With the Bruins’ recent success with young players and the young guys battling for roster spots who can put the puck in the net, I would be surprised if Stempniak got a roster spot.

As for Winnik, the 33-year-old former UNH Wildcat, he’s bounced around the league much like Stempniak. He played last season with the Minnesota Wild, totaling 23 points in 81 games. Winnik has played with eight teams during his career, and he’s survived the first few rounds of cuts so his chances of making it nine total teams in his career are good, at least for now.

Unlike Stempniak, Winnik has never been known as a scorer. He’s almost exclusively played on the fourth line his entire career. One of the best parts of his game is the fact he very rarely gets injured. Over the last three seasons, Winnik has only missed a total of 17 games. Winnik plays the game with an edge and has always been a high-energy player. It remains to be seen where he’d fit in Boston because of the glut of young players looking to get ice time. With Winnik being a fourth-liner, he wouldn’t be exactly stealing ice time from anyone because a player such as Anders Bjork or Peter Cehlarik would be well-utilized on that line.

Despite Winnik’s age, I do think he’d be a very solid fourth-liner, and personally, I would like to see him play with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari to create a line of effective, hard-working players. The good thing is, the Bruins do have many other options, so there’s not necessarily a need for a player like Winnik, but I don’t think it would be a bad thing if the Bruins brought him on.

I think the chances of making the Bruins roster are greater for Winnik because of the type of game he plays. I think the reality of bringing in Stempniak is not very strong considering the younger options the B’s have. But I do believe both of these players could be useful as both still have plenty left. Stempniak would be joining a team with tons more offensive talent than the team he played with 3 years ago. Winnik would be joining his ninth team in his career and could be a very effective fourth-liner. I don’t believe either player makes the Bruins’ final roster, but it is interesting that they’ve lasted this long through multiple rounds of roster cuts.