Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils were rather busy today. In addition to signing Jiri Tlusty and announcing Tyler Kennedy will come into training camp on a try-out, they announced that a second forward will be in camp on a professional try-out contract: Lee Stempniak. As with the other signings, this was first announced on Twitter:
Forward Lee Stempniak will be attending #NJDevils training camp as a PTO.— New Jersey Devils (@NHLDevils) September 16, 2015
I was pleased with the decision to bring in Kennedy on a PTO. I am also pleased with this decision to bring in Stempniak. He is very much a veteran, as he's appeared in 708 games in his career. Aside from 2006-07 and 2009-10, he's never been a significant producer of points. Still, he has done a lot of traveling as he has played for six different teams in his career. Four of them came in the last two seasons. Calgary moved him to Pittsburgh for a third-round pick mid-season in 2013-14; the Rangers moved him to Winnipeg for Carl Klingberg last season. As the 31-year old was available all summer, he seems to be settling into a journeyman role.
He could very well be of use. For starters, he's a right wing. For that reason alone, it's a good idea to bring him on a try out. The Devils absolutely have room available on the roster for right wings. If Stempniak shows he still has game, it shouldn't be too difficult for him to get a deal. Moreover, Stempniak has played quite a lot of minutes before. Before this past season, Stempniak's lowest average time on ice in a season was 14:22 according to Hockey Reference. What this means is that on the teams he's played on, he's been given significant shifts. He may not have been a top-six player, but he's not a limited-use-only forward. Even despite lower minutes last season, Stempniak has reliably put up at least 20 to 25 even strength points in his career according to War on Ice. His Corsi For% doesn't jump off the page, but he hasn't had an offensive zone start percentage of 50% or above since 2009-10 (and below 45% in three of his last five seasons). There's reason to think his production could dip; he had a pretty high PDO (102.6) and an even shooting percentage (14%) last season. He had some hot hands with the Jets last season. At the same time, you're looking to a player like Stempniak to chip in points, not be a main producer.
Ultimately, Stempniak has been a solid player for most of the six teams he's played for. I think he can be given a third-line spot, some special teams work, and he'll do a decent job. If he has to move up in the lineup, then he can do that for a bit too. Truck at Arctic Ice Hockey pretty much pointed that out back in May and expressed a desire that he stay a Jet. That's pretty good praise for someone who suited up for only 22 games (18 regular, 4 playoff) and came in mid-season. But hat did not happen; now he has a chance to be a Devil. He's 31 so I don't think his performance is going to totally drop off. His experience should help him fit into the situation the Devils are in. Given that he plays a position the team needs, I think the try-out is really just to see if he can show that he fits into John Hynes' plans. If he does, then I think he'd be a good short-term signing. Like with Kennedy, I'm pleased with this decision to bring him in for a closer look.
I'm a fan, but I want to know: what do you think of this decision? Are you pleased that the team is bringing in Stempniak on a try-out? Do you think he'll make the team like I do and sort-of hope? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Stempniak in the comments. Thank you for reading.