The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have a lot of cap space, and their lineup will have some holes come Jul. 1.
While the team is losing three defensemen to free agency – Deryk Engelland, Matt Niskanen, and Brooks Orpik – it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s their biggest priority. The organization is flourished with young blueliners ready to take the next step.
It’s the forward depth that’s worrisome.
Brian Gibbons, Tanner Glass, Marcel Goc, Jussi Jokinen, Taylor Pyatt, Lee Stempniak, and Joe Vitale are all unrestricted free agents. Currently, if you’re including Brandon Sutter, who is a restricted free agent, the team has eight forwards on their roster for next season. One is coming off ACL and MCL surgery (Pascal Dupuis); one just had hand/wrist surgery (Beau Bennett); and one is 37-years of age (Craig Adams).
That’s not too comforting.
Out of the seven free agent forwards, Gibbons, and maybe Vitale return for next season. But what about Stempniak? Should the team attempt to re-sign him this summer?
Acquired at the trade deadline, Stempniak wasn’t all that bad for Pittsburgh. Bounced around from the first and third lines, Stempniak provided a steady contribution, and could be had for cheap – unlike, say, Jokinen’s potential asking price.
Knowing he came from a team like Calgary, who was absolutely abysmal, Stempniak could also see this as an opportunity to return to a contender, and accept a discount in doing so. And considering Pittsburgh’s payroll situation, I don’t see a reason as to why they wouldn’t consider bringing him back. If Stempniak is given a full season, I think we could witness him replicate how Jokinen panned out.
When Jokinen was acquired from Carolina at last year’s deadline, he was mediocre during the regular-season, and then scratched off-and-on in the postseason. Then, out of nowhere, went on to produce masterfully this past season, and ranked second on the team in scoring these last playoffs. So, when comparing Jokinen’s situation to Stempniak, I don’t think there’s many differences.
Sure, Stempniak didn’t manufacture much with three playoff points, but, again, perhaps the change in systems stalled his production. Jokinen only had three points his first postseason with the Pens, so there’s my point. If Stempniak can just get some more time getting acclimated to the schemes, we could see a different player next season.
This is all barring if he accepts a minor deal. That’s the key.
So, why not?