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League's nomads take NHL Trade Deadline in stride

Lee Stempniak, Dominic Moore find switching uniforms, cities just part of their job

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

For some players, the days leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline can be an anxious time. Every ring of the phone brings trepidation.

But for Lee Stempniak, it has become old hat.

The Carolina Hurricanes right wing has been traded six times in his NHL career, including at each of the past three trade deadlines. When New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero called on deadline day last season to tell him he'd been traded to the Boston Bruins, Stempniak was prepared for it.

"I knew it was going to happen in New Jersey if the right deal came along," he said. "I had some dialogue with my agent and he talked with Ray and I sort of had a sense of how it was going to play out."

Over his 12 NHL seasons, Stempniak, 34, has learned to accept that moving around comes with the job. He and Bruins center Dominic Moore, 36, have each played for 10 teams, the most among active players.

Mike Sillinger, who last played in 2008-09 with the New York Islanders, set NHL records by playing for 12 teams and being traded nine times, including eight times during the season.

"I was always a player that would fit another team's needs as far as budget," said Sillinger, now a scout for Regina of the Western Hockey League. "And I was versatile player, so I always fit another team's needs as far as position as well. So it was something that when you're going into the playoffs, you want to make sure you have depth."

Moore has been traded seven times and claimed off waivers once. His second stint with the New York Rangers, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, was the only time he lasted as long as two full seasons in one city.

"I don't think anyone necessarily hopes for that but there's positive and negative parts of that experience," Moore said, "and I've had a lot of positives I'm proud of and good memories along the way. I got to play in different cities and for different teams that have different traditions. There's great people you meet along the way."

Stempniak, who signed a two-year contract with the Hurricanes as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has had no repeat teams so far. His longest stop was with his first team, the St. Louis Blues, who selected him in the fifth round (No. 148) of the 2003 NHL Draft. 

Stempniak was 14 games into his fourth season in St. Louis when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 24, 2008. Since then, he has bounced around quite a bit.

Over the past four seasons alone, he has played for seven teams.

There have been some poorly-timed trades, such as the one from the Calgary Flames to the Pittsburgh Penguins on deadline day in 2014. That came five days after his wife, Lindsay, gave birth six weeks early to their twin daughters, Reese and Lucy.

But, like Moore, Stempniak has seen life as an NHL nomad have its benefits.

"I probably flew only four times in my life before I got to the NHL, and now I've lived all over North America," Stempniak said. "In Calgary, we could see the Rockies from our house, to living in Arizona in Scottsdale and New York City and sort of our new [offseason] home in Boston, I got to play there. I got to play on a line with [Penguins captain] Sidney Crosby. Just a lot of different things I got to experience, and made a lot of great friends in different places."

That also has made it easier to fit in when he changes teams.

"I think I knew someone pretty much everywhere other than when I went to Toronto," Stempniak said. "Actually, no. when I went to Toronto I knew Jamal Mayers. Here, though, the only guy I really knew was Jay McClement, because we played together in St. Louis. But he was the only guy. That's more rare."

Video: NYI@CAR: Stempniak goes top shelf off faceoff

Oddly, after signing with the Bruins on Aug. 30, Moore arrived at training camp and discovered he hadn't played with anyone there previously.

"Boston was probably the only team where I didn't know anyone before," he said. "Matt Beleskey had come to my charity event in Toronto and that's it. That's weird. You look at every other team and there's probably at least two guys that I've played with."

Not surprisingly, Moore's and Stempniak's paths have crossed a few times. First, they played against each other in the Ivy League when Moore was at Harvard and Stempniak was at Dartmouth. Then, they played together on the Maple Leafs and the Rangers.

Each of those stints as teammates ended after less than a full season when one of them was traded.

"The way the League is now, there's a lot of musical chairs, if you want to call it that," Moore said. "Especially the guys on shorter-term contracts end up being among the guys who change cities."

Sillinger and Stempniak were teammates during Stempniak's rookie season with the Blues in 2005-06. That was Sillinger's 10th team; he was traded to the Nashville Predators before that season ended.

"It's a business," Sillinger said. "That's one thing I learned at an early stage in my career, that hockey was not only a great game and something I loved, but it was a job, something I had to do to provide for my family. So wherever I had to go, there were always 20 guys there ready to welcome you."

Although Sillinger said he wouldn't care if someone broke his record of playing for 12 teams, he also acknowledged, "It's something I'm proud of."

"You can say I played on 12 teams and did this and this," Sillinger said. "But if you go look back and talk to a lot of my teammates, I'd like to think they would say I was a character guy and I was a team guy, put the team ahead of myself, and that was the reason for my longevity."

Stempniak said he's "sort of indifferent" about the possibility of breaking Sillinger's record someday. Unlike the past three seasons, he isn't on an expiring contract, so he doesn't expect to be traded before the 2017 deadline (3 p.m. ET, March 1). But, from experience, he knows to be ready for anything.

He also knows the NHL Expansion Draft is coming in June and the Vegas Golden Knights might be interested in a well-traveled veteran to provide leadership.

"I'd love for Carolina to be the last team I play on and to be a part of this team," Stempniak said. "I think it's a young team that's just going to keep getting better. I think I can contribute in a lot of different ways and, hopefully, it's the last stop. But if not, I'm not afraid of change or anything like that.

"I guess if it's going to happen, it's going to happen."

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