The New York Rangers’ front office was busy again on Saturday as the blueshirts signed veteran right wing Lee Stempniak to a one-year contract. The signing certainly doesn’t make a big splash, but it may quietly turn out to be a key transaction for the Rangers.
Stempniak is a guy who could potentially make substantial contributions offensively. It’s hard to say how much production the Rangers will expect from him, but Stempniak has posted at least 30 points in seven of his nine NHL seasons.
It will be interesting to see how the Rangers use Stempniak and whether he has the potential to fit into New York’s third line, or if they try and put him on their fourth line. Stempniak is a quick skater who might play well with Mats Zuccarello on the third line, but there are many possibilities this early in the offseason.
Between the players who left New York and the new faces that have been signed, coach Alain Vigneault has a lot of work to do in terms of assessing his potential lines. Stempniak is one of many Rangers who will have to test their chemistry with new teammates, which may ultimately determine what line he plays on. It took the Rangers a long time last season to develop chemistry on all four lines, and it will be another work in progress with a different group this time around.
Stempniak being a veteran player should transition to New York well. He also knows what it’s like to adjust to a new team, as the Rangers will be his sixth NHL team in his career.
Another element to the Stempniak signing that goes overlooked is the fact that New York didn’t spend too much to get him. The Rangers spent roughly the same amount on center Matthew Lombardi recently, and the same idea applies. These players have a chance to make an impact in the Rangers’ lineup and it wouldn’t be costing New York much. Their production is the bigger question there, but saving money will be important in the future, as it always is.
The Rangers have more cap space than most teams, but not overspending on free agents should allow them to sign defensemen Marc Staal to an extension. Money aside, Stempniak should fit in well on a Rangers team that thrives on team efforts rather than individual players carrying the load. We’ll find out just how well he fits in when the Rangers begin training camp, but it initially looks to be a decent signing for New York.