Forward Lee Stempniak agreed to a two-year, $2.5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. The contract has an average annual value of $1.25 million.
Stempniak turned a training-camp invite from the New Jersey Devils into his best season in nearly a decade. Not only did the right wing play well enough to earn a contract from the Devils, he was one of their best offensive players (16 goals, 41 points in 63 games) until the Boston Bruins acquired him prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. He wasn't as productive in Boston, finishing with three goals and 10 points in 19 games, but his combined total of 51 points were the most he had since 2006-07, when he had 52 (including a career-best 27 goals).
One reason Stempniak's offensive game flourished in New Jersey was that he was getting better-quality ice time than he'd had in other stops. The offensively-challenged Devils put Stempniak on their first line largely out of necessity, and he grabbed the opportunity. On a more established team, such as the Bruins, the opportunities weren't as good; neither were his numbers.
Stempniak, 33, has played with nine teams in 11 seasons, including six since the beginning of 2013-14. But he's neither a first-line scorer nor a fourth-line grinder; he has kept a job by providing teams with someone who can round out established pairs of forwards and be productive.
Stempniak, who has 184 goals and 420 points in his career, will never be a star, but he's a consistent, reliable player who can be trusted in all situations. He is what he is, a useful player who can still be productive in a variety of situations.