Two months ago Lee Stempniak was trying desperately to find his next NHL contract, his future in the league up in the air.
Fast forward to now and not only is Stempniak is playing huge minutes for the New Jersey Devils, but he’s absolutely thriving in his new environment.
Stempniak had a monstrous game against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night, scoring the game-tying goal with only 32 seconds left in the third period and then sealing the win for his team in the shootout.
Up to this point Stempniak has six points in seven games, tied for second on the team, while averaging a hefty 18:28 of ice time per game.
Not bad at all for a player that just signed a cheap one-year, $850,000 deal after attending the team’s training camp on a professional tryout.
Stempniak, 32, is coming off of a respectable 2014-15 campaign that saw him register 28 points in 71 games split between the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets. Despite being a steady veteran with a couple of 20-goal seasons on his resume, Stempniak found himself, along with a lot of other older NHLers, stuck in an unfortunate purgatory this summer as a player that was still good enough to play in the league, but not quite good enough to be guaranteed a contract or to solidify a roster spot over a younger player.
“It’s been slow for a lot of guys. There’s still a lot of good players that are out there,” he told Sportsnet back on August 20th. “I continue to talk to teams. It’s just about finding the right fit.”
It certainly looks like he found that fit in New Jersey. Stempniak is off to one of the hottest starts in his NHL career, and Devils general Ray Shero and his team couldn’t be happier. If he can keep this pace going he won’t have much trouble at all finding a new contract next summer.
Derek Neumeier primarily covers the Dallas Stars, but also other various topics related to the sport of hockey. A Journalism graduate of Mount Royal University, Derek also writes for Defending Big D, and has done previous work with the Edmonton Oilers as a communications intern and Hockey Canada as a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @Derek_N_NHL