Stempniak, 27, said he’s glad the deal is finally done.
“I think going into it my agent and I talked and were sort of prepared for uncertainty,” Stempniak said. “You don't really know what's going to happen... I think over the course of the summer we tried to be patient and sort of let the process play out and the market get set and ultimately find the right fit. For me, as a player and as a person and for my family and where we wanted to be and where we wanted to play, ultimately, going back to Phoenix is really exciting for us. I had a great experience there and I really enjoy the coaches and the players. It would have been tough to leave."
► EDITOR'S NOTE:
to listen to a media teleconference with Stempniak recorded on Monday afternoon.
Stempniak, who got married in late June, said he received offers from several other teams but ultimately decided the best fit was with the Coyotes, for whom he scored 14 goals in 18 regular-season games after coming to Phoenix in a trade on March 3. (In seven playoff games vs. Detroit, Stempniak notched zero goals.)
Phoenix's persistence during the off-season negotiations impressed Stempniak, he said.
"Don (Maloney) stayed in contact with my agent and they were able to find a way to get it done and we're really appreciative of that," Stempniak said. "... It certainly was a different market than years past, but I guess you can't really worry about what would have happened in the past or anything like that. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish it all would have been over three months ago, but at the end of the day it is done before training camp, I'm not going to miss any hockey and I've been working out just the same."
Maloney said Stempniak was a key to the team’s late-season success and that re-signing him bodes well for the team’s future.
“Lee, with his work habits and personality, was a terrific addition to our team last year,” Maloney said. “Although he ran into a dry spell scoring in the playoffs, he was still competing in the hard areas - in the corners, at the front of the net - to score. We expect Lee to be a 25-plus goal scorer for us this season.”
Stempniak’s contract is a two-year deal.
“This is a terrific 'value' contract,” Maloney said. “We were able to sign Lee under market this season and at a very good price the following season for a player with his proven scoring record. He is still 'hockey' young so a two-year contract at this price made sense to us.”
The Coyotes veterans will report to training camp on Sept. 17. With Stempniak back in the mix, competition for roster spots among the younger forwards – such as Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker
, Viktor Tikhonov
, Alexandre Picard and Brett MacLean
– will be even more intense.
“We expect to build on last season's success,” Maloney said. “Creating legitimate competition will make our entire organization deeper and stronger. We still have room for two or three young forwards and two or three young defensemen to make our team in training camp. The difference from prior seasons is that roster spots will now need to be earned versus given.”
Stempniak is eager for the season to start and his goals are clear.
"A big one for me is consistency," Stempniak said. "It's the biggest thing, and what separates the elite players from everybody else is that they do it every night. As a player, I am certainly striving for that consistency."
Reach Dave Vest at email@example.com