BOSTON — Right wing depth was among the Bruins’ biggest needs entering Monday’s NHL trade deadline and they addressed it with the acquisition of Lee Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils.
The price to acquire the veteran forward wasn’t cheap: a 2016 fourth-round draft pick and a 2017 second-round selection. But the Bruins decided it was a move worth executing.
“I felt the draft situation and relinquishing some of those (picks) to acquire a player of Lee’s versatility, and the type of year he’s having, will compliment our group very well,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Monday at TD Garden. “He can play a bunch of different positions for us.”
Stempniak is having the best season of his career with 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 63 games for the Devils, who signed him on a professional tryout in September. Stempniak skated with the Bruins in some practices before training camp, but he chose New Jersey’s PTO offer over Boston’s.
Stempniak’s team-leading scoring is a major reason why the Devils currently find themselves in the playoff race despite most experts predicting before the season that they’d be among the league’s worst teams. He automatically becomes Boston’s leading scorer among right wingers, as offensive production has been lacking from the position all season. Jimmy Hayes leads the Bruins’ group of right wingers with 29 points in 61 games.
Here’s how Stempniak stacks up among Boston’s wingers on the right side. David Pastrnak is the only one averaging more goals, assists and points per 60 minutes in all situations.
Another area Stempniak will help is special teams. The Bruins’ penalty kill has struggled of late with 12 power-play goals against in 14 February games. Stempniak averaged 1:54 of penalty kill ice time per game for a Devils PK unit that ranks eighth. He averaged 2:23 of power-play time for New Jersey, too.
At even strength, Stempniak is capable of producing on all four lines, giving B’s head coach Claude Julien some valuable lineup flexibility. He’d be a nice fit on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, or he could play in the bottom six, perhaps on the third line alongside Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey.
Here are some possible line combinations going forward.
Stempniak is in the final year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent if unsigned July 1.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
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