Training camp may be over, but the tryout experience continues for veteran forward Lee Stempniak. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that Stempniak will continue his PTO with the Boston Bruins into the regular season. Stempniak will not travel with the team initially, but will continue practicing in Boston. Both Stempniak and Daniel Winnik were with the team on tryouts this preseason but were reportedly mulling other offers after training camp came to an end. While there is no word on Winnik, it seems Stempniak feels his best chance to land an NHL contract is to remain in Boston.
Stempniak, 35, has a history with the team and it’s one that Boston certainly has taken into account. Stempniak joined the Bruins on a PTO ahead of the 2015-16 season, but signed with the New Jersey Devils when Boston opted not to offer him a contract. The 13-year veteran enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career that season, recording 41 points in 63 games as one of New Jersey’s top forwards, before the Bruins decided to re-acquire him at the Trade Deadline. The move cost them a second- and fourth-round pick, when they could have had him for free all season, and came too late as his ten points in 19 games weren’t enough to push the team into the postseason. This time around, the Bruins have decided to keep Stempniak around in hopes that he can help if needed rather than become a passed-up opportunity they regret.
Where would he fit in the lineup? While the Bruins gave prospects Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Jack Studnicka a chance to win a roster spot and center the third line, none of the trio could win the job in camp. The opening night roster features Sean Kuraly in that role, even though he is best suited on the fourth line. That realization could potentially move David Backes back to center, opening up his third-line right wing spot. Although the likes Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik, and Martin Bakos are internal candidates who could fill the void, Stempniak could present an option as well or at the very least a depth piece who could compete for the job. Even if Stempniak isn’t Boston’s first choice for a regular role, the experienced right wing would serve as valuable depth. Stempniak is coming off a brutal season with the Carolina Hurricanes, accounting for just nine points in 37 games. However, the season prior he was still a 40-point player. On a talented roster like the Bruins’, Stempniak has the potential to get back to that level of production and elongate his career. That’s reason enough to stay with the club on a PTO in hopes of earning a contract.