Lee Stempniak scored 15 goals last season. (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON — When players took the ice at Ristuccia Arena for an informal session Tuesday, former Bruin Daniel Paille was long gone. Having agreed to attend the Blackhawks’ camp on a professional tryout, Paille’s long offseason of waiting for a chance was over.
The same could not be said for free agent right wing Lee Stempniak, who was still skating with the Bruins Tuesday after spending recent weeks at either Ristuccia or Boston University preparing for the season.
Stempniak still hasn’t agreed to anything with a team, though it’s likely a PTO is in his near future. The Dartmouth graduate, who has played for seven teams over his 10-year career, has lived in Boston with his now wife since he graduated college. Now 32 with a young family and looking for a job, Stempniak wouldn’t mind a shot with the Bruins.
“I think it would be a good fit. It’s a great organization,” Stempniak said. “I’ve heard great things. I’ve gotten to know some of the guys. I like them and have a lot of respect for some of their players, just the way they train, the way they play and as people. It’s definitely appealing, but for me, it’s sort of weighing the options. I’ve talked to more teams over the last couple of weeks and things have really picked up. [It’s about] finding the right opportunity at this point.”
Stempniak scored 15 goals last season between the Rangers and Jets over a combined 71 games. Though he’s on the back nine of his career, he is a more-than-servicable bottom-six forward with ample special teams experience. If he were to get a tryout with the Bruins, he would have his work cut out for him, given that the B’s already have a number of right wings in David Pastrnak, Loui Eriksson, Brett Connolly, Jimmy Hayes, Seth Griffith and Brian Ferlin. It’s likely the B’s will play Eriksson at left wing due to the abundance of righties.
This isn’t the first time Stempniak has waited to learn his fate. As a free agent last summer, he didn’t sign until late July, when he took a one-year deal with the Rangers. Back in 2010, Stempniak lasted until late August on the open market before re-signing with the Coyotes.
Though Stempniak has learned to expect the unexpected, the fact that he remains unsigned should still come as a surprise. After scoring six goals for the Jets in 18 regular-season games and then potting the Jets’ first playoff goal since the team’s return to Winnipeg, Stempniak figured he would be back with the Jets. Instead, the Jets opted to give their younger players a shot.
“I felt like I had a good year and a strong finish to the season,” he said. “I was hoping to go back to Winnipeg. I liked it there. It’s a great hockey city, a a great organization and I thought it was a good fit. It didn’t work out for one reason or another, and I’m just looking [for] the next thing. I’ve been on quite a few teams over the course of my career. Change is something I’m used to.”
Camps open across the NHL on Thursday. Given that Stempniak is good for 10-15 goals, he figures to be at one of them. That doesn’t make it any less stressful as the clock continues to tick.
“For me, it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind a little bit,” he said. “It’s hard. I have a young family, so it’s not just a matter of packing up and moving. I haven’t changed how I’ve prepared at all. I’m just preparing for training camp on Thursday. Right now, it’s just figuring out where will that be.”