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Stempniak excited for opportunity with Penguins

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

Starting with the babies born Friday night late at night to now, it’s been two pretty big life changing events that have happened.Lee Stempniak

CALGARY, AB -- In less than a week, Lee Stempniak has had his world turned upside down.

After welcoming twin daughters Lucy and Reese into the world late Friday night, the Calgary Flames traded the 31-year-old to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a third round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft in advance of Wednesday’s NHL Trade Deadline.

“Starting with the babies born Friday night late at night to now, it’s been two pretty big life changing events that have happened,” Stempniak said. “It’s part of the business. Things like that happen. It’s two really exciting things. I’m fortunate that things are really looking like they’re going well right now.”

Heading into the deadline, Stempniak wasn’t surprised to hear his name bandied about in trade rumours.

Consequently, the pending unrestricted free agent wasn’t overly surprised to learn that Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke had shipped him to the Pittsburgh Penguins just before the cutoff.

“I was watching as it went down to the wire and didn’t really hear anything,” Stempniak said. “I didn’t get a phone call from Brian until maybe [around 3 o’clock]. I sort of knew something was happening but wasn’t sure yet. I’m really excited.

“It’ll be tough to leave Calgary. I love the city, love playing here, the fans, teammates, coaches but it’s onto the next challenge and really excited to be going to Pittsburgh.”

It’s not the first time Stempniak has been involved in a deadline deal with Burke pulling the trigger.

With both members of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010, Burke sent Stempniak to the Phoenix Coyotes minutes before the deadline in exchange for a fourth and seventh round pick.

“I forgot I traded him twice,” Burke said.

“I think Lee Stempniak is a really good hockey player,” added the Flames acting general manager. “If he was 10 pounds heavier, I think he'd be a dynamite hockey player. I think he can help Pittsburgh. I told him, 'You have a chance to do something special and get some hardware out of it, so take advantage of it’.”

That’s Stempniak’s plan.

The 5-foot-11, 196 pound winger joins a Pittsburgh club that currently sits a top the Eastern Conference standings and has a legitimate shot to content for the Stanley Cup.

That opportunity isn’t lost on their newest acquisition.

“You can’t ask for anything more as a player than to be able to play in the playoffs and really just be on a team that has a chance,” said Stempniak, who amassed 23 points in 52 games this season. “I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I just know you look at the standings and see they’re at the top in the East.

“You can’t help but be really happy and really excited to join a team like that. To know they have the players they have that are game-breakers and are capable of dominating games, it’s a really exciting time.

“From my end, just looking to go in there and try help out anyway I can, wherever they want to play me and however I can help. I’m really looking forward to it. The team is poised for a good playoff run. You can’t help but be excited to join that.”

Not only will a move the Penguins help Stempniak’s Stanley Cup aspirations, it also helps facilitate a move a little closer to home. A move to Pittsburgh brings him considerably closer to wife Lindsay and his new daughters, who currently reside in Boston.

It makes moving, Stempniak admitted, a little easier.

“It’s tough being away from my wife and kids but at the same time, it’s easier for me to just pack up and move on and just move myself rather than having to worry about getting them situated,” he said. “That’s a nice part of it, too.”

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