The Boston Bruins surprised everyone when they didn’t have any invited forwards on their training camp roster. Veteran forward Lee Stempniak was in town skating at informal skates but there was no word about what would happen with him. On Monday, the Bruins announced that Stempniak, along with veteran Daniel Winnik, have signed PTO’s and will report to camp with the club later this week.
Neither of these players are game changers, but both of them are NHLers who could help the club when it comes to depth. Stempniak, in particular, is interesting because he has been here before and has a history of producing as a top-nine winger during his NHL career. When it comes to cap, neither of these players will garner a big contract and would provide the club with value deals.
Will either of these players make the roster? What do these players bring to the table? Let’s have a look.
Stempniak has been here before, coming to Boston at the trade deadline in 2016. He played 19 games for the Bruins while potting three goals and adding seven assists for ten points. He was scoring at more than a half-point-per-game pace and seemed to be a great fit for the club. To be honest I was surprised that Boston didn’t extend Stempniak after that stretch.
He instead signed a two-year deal with Carolina, having a terrific first season for the Canes. Stempniak posted 40 points (16-24-40) in 82 games for the Hurricanes in 2016-17, but fell off the cliff a year ago. He played in just 37 NHL games, posting only nine points. For the first time since 2005-06, Stempniak played games in the AHL, dressing in one game for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
Stempniak has a history of playing top-nine minutes in the NHL, and produced the offense to match it just a season ago. It’s not crazy to think that with a chance, Stempniak could re-emerge as a top-nine forward and provide a team with some seriously cheap depth up front. For a club like Boston with a number of questions, that would be a very welcomed development.
A look at Stempniak’s scouting report from The Hockey News describes him as a player who “owns good quickness and a sneaky wrister,” and “can play either wing position and displays scoring acumen” while also commenting on his ability to play on both special teams units.
Stempniak has a good chance to make the club in my opinion. He’s got the ability to play on both special teams units, can add depth scoring and is a strong veteran presence that is very familiar with a lot of the veteran players on the team. It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if he landed a job on the third line moving forward.
Winnik is a very interesting addition to the Bruins’ training camp mainly because he is such a good fit for the club. He’s a veteran forward who can play all three forward positions and can also contribute on the penalty kill. He excels in defensive positions and almost always is a positive contributor when it comes to possession. Winnik is a perfect fourth line forward in the NHL and gives any team he plays for a versatile veteran option.
Winnik played in Minnesota last season, scoring 23 points in 81 games for the Wild. The biggest surprise with him? His awful possession stats, which saw him post a 44.7% Corsi For, nearly five percent worse than his career average. He didn’t have the kind of season we have come to expect over the years.
That said, Winnik still posted solid offensive numbers and the Wild weren’t an overly strong team in a number of areas a season ago. It’s not hard to imagine Winnik having more success on a better team, which Boston just so happens to be.
Via The Hockey News, Winnik is a player who “can play any forward position and displays plenty of defensive acumen.” He “has excellent size for the NHL game, as well as a wealth of determination,” while also criticizing his lack of physical play despite his size at 6-foot-2.
I think Winnik has a chance to get a contract as well, but I don’t think he’ll get one in the end. He produces less offense than Stempniak and the Bruins are more in need of a depth scorer than they are another defensive specialist. That said, if young players struggle or the Bruins can clear a spot or two, then perhaps Winnik’s fortune will change.