With the New York Islanders electing to keep their draft picks, Garth Snow will have to look elsewhere to create a splash this off-season or run the risk of seeing the team regress. Management’s eyes need to be set on a top line winger, but talented forward depth is another area that could help the Islanders make strides in the 2016-2017 season.
The combination of trading roster players and the Free Agent Market are where the Islanders will need to look for their top line winger with the draft is behind us. Based on rumors and speculation, some of the top free agent forwards (including Stamkos and Okposo) will be fetching major paydays while other free agent forwards, such as Lee Stempniak, may be available for a very reasonable paycheck.
Stempniak does not fit the mold of a top line winger that the Islanders are in desperate need of. Just because he is not the candidate that should play next to John Tavares does not mean that he would not be a worthwhile addition to the organization.
Adding Stempniak benefits Islanders by increasing depth, adding point producing ability, and a veteran locker room presence all for a cheap contract.
Stempniak: The Numbers
Lee Stempniak is no stranger to playing for new teams. Often referred to as a “journeyman”, Stempniak has played for 9 different NHL teams in his 11 season in the league. As a UFA this season, he may be faced with moving to yet another city.
The New York Islanders should be a team in the mix for a number of reasons. First, his point production is worth taking a look at. Over 790 NHL games, he recorded 420 points which comes out to .53 PPG. In comparison to some current Islanders, that’s .1 PPG higher than Josh Bailey, .12 PPG higher than Nikolay Kulemin, and .2 ppg lower than Mikhail Grabovski.
While .53 PPG isn’t spectacular, this last season Stempniak posted 51 points in 82 games. If Stempniak was on the Islanders roster, he would have been the fourth-highest point scorer on the team behind Tavares, Okposo and Nielsen. Stempniak outscored Bailey, Kulemin and Grabovski by 19 points or more last season.
Based on how Bailey, Kulemin and Grabovski have played over the last one or two season for the Islanders, most people would argue that we should not be comparing potential acquisitions to sub-par production players. On the other hand, Stempniak out performed all of those players for a fraction of the cost.
Grabovski’s cap hit last season was $5.5 million, Kulemin’s was $4.2 million and Bailey’s was $3.3 million. What was Stempniak’s cap hit? $850,000. It’s hard to argue that a 51 point player wouldn’t be a great addition to the roster for less than $1 million. An argument can be made that after a 51 points season he will fetch more than $850,000 in his next contract but even if the Islanders pay him $1.2 million, it would still be a cheap deal in the end.
Not only does Stempniak bring points to the table, but at 33 years old he also brings an element of veteran leadership that we all know Coach Capuano loves.
Stempniak: The Risks
Signing Lee Stempniak is not completely free of risks. Some of the risks surrounding this signing include his age, potential, and loss of a roster spot.
While the fact that Stempniak is 33 years old is a positive in terms of veteran leadership, it may also be detrimental. With a player of his age, there is a chance that he already reached his potential and his production will decline year-after-year. And a roster spot would be lost on an aging and declining player.
As a whole, are there risks associated with signing Stempniak in free agency? Yes, as there is with signing every free agent. Will Stempniak solve our top line winger problem? Not likely, no. With that being said, Stempniak is a solid winger that can bring not only points, but leadership, for a very low cost.