The New York Rangers are closing in on signing Lee Stempniak to a one-year deal, according to Darren Dreger of TSN:
Lee Stempniak is closing in on a 1 yr agreement with the NY Rangers.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 19, 2014
Brad May of Sportsnet, however, tweeted that the Rangers have signed Stempniak:
Larry Brooks confirmed the deal on Saturday with this tweet:
Stempniak in at one year, $900.000 for #NYR. Who else didn't play well for Pens against NYR in playoffs that team can sign?— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) July 19, 2014
So with that in mind, what can the Rangers expect from Stempniak now that he is signed?
The Blueshirts were lacking a third-line winger after Benoit Pouliot departed via free agency, and Stempniak will fill that hole.
The addition of Stempniak brings some speed and skill to the squad; May had this to say about the signing via Twitter, and how Stempniak can fit in the Blueshirts' lineup:
Good signing for the NY Rangers. Lee Stempniak is a quality guy and has good hockey in front of him. Speed and Skill.— Brad May (@maydayhockey) July 19, 2014
That tweet pretty much sums up Stempniak's game, and it is something the Rangers will love to have in the lineup. He is slated to fill a bottom-six role, but he can slot up higher if necessary.
With the Rangers, Stempniak could find himself potentially playing with someone like Derick Brassard or Mats Zuccarello, and that would be a nice combination given his offensive skill set. The veteran winger has averaged 0.54 points per game throughout his career, which puts him at a shade under 45 points a season.
His production has tailed off a bit, but his recent production puts him line to effectively bring what Pouliot did to the table offensively.
Last season Stempniak tallied 12 goals and 34 points, and that type of production could be great for the Rangers in a third-line role. Stempniak isn't a player that will set the world on fire, but he has a nice shot, and he's a right-handed shot.
That fact is very important because all of the Rangers' top wingers—Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider—are left-handed. While their handedness may seem arbitrary, it will come into play on special teams.
Stempniak would be the second right-handed addition to the power play this summer, with Dan Boyle being signed on July 1. It appears the Rangers are addressing this issue, because one of their biggest problems on the power play last season was the lack of right-handed shots.
Whenever you load up a power play with players of similar handedness, it negates the potential for one-timers, and it can handcuff players and their creativity.
That is something that bench boss Alain Vigneault knows about first-hand, as the Vancouver Canucks' power play struggled mightily when they had to rely on a power-play unit with all left-handed shots, according to the Vancouver Sun back in 2013 (h/t Rangers Unlimited).
When you're trying to run a power play with five left shots, which we were forced to do a lot this year, you're really swimming upstream. Seventy-seven per cent of the power-play goals are scored with at least two right shots, so that tells you a lot right there. Not to say there are exceptions to the rule, but when you have five left shots, or even four, your chances of scoring are diminished.
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Scoring goals on the power play is certainly important, and that was something the Rangers had a problem doing during the playoffs. Stempniak isn't going to be the ultimate difference-maker in this situation, but he will certainly help things improve.
No matter how you may feel about Stempniak as a player, this is a low-risk and high-reward signing. It is clear that he's a player with some skill, and his speed makes him a great fit for the Blueshirts' high-octane offensive system.
Stempniak should fit in nicely; he could turn out to be a great offensive replacement for the departed Pouliot. The addition of Stempniak means the Rangers now have 47 players under contract, so that leaves three more spots open.
That means the Blueshirts are almost finished making moves, but general manager Glen Sather might have a few more tricks up his sleeve.