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Stempniak getting results with Crosby, Kunitz

Mar 13, 2014, 9:58 AM EDT

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Chris Kunitz #14 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Lee Stempniak #22 and Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on March 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

Pittsburgh went all out during the 2013 trade deadline, getting forwards Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, and Jussi Jokinen as well as defenseman Douglas Murray. That wasn’t enough to earn the Penguins the Stanley Cup though and with the team close to the cap ceiling, they took a subtler approach this time.

They recently acquired Lee Stempniak for a third round pick and while that was a minor move compared to other team’s dealings, it might prove to be just what the Penguins needed.

Pittsburgh has been interested in acquiring a right winger to pair up with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz since Pascal Dupuis suffered a season-ending knee injury and so far Stempniak has filled that void. He had three assists in Pittsburgh’s back-to-back victories against Washington.

“It’s gone pretty well,” Stempniak told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The three of us on the bench just have an open dialogue on what each other is thinking.

“Part of if for me is trying not to force the puck to Sid too much. I think the first couple of games I’d get it and try and throw it to him. He’s covered sometimes. He’s a great player, but it’s not always the right play to give it to him.”

Pittsburgh is playing for the Eastern Conference title, but with 17 games left, the Penguins have already essentially secured the Metropolitan Division. That makes this final month more about getting ready for the playoffs than anything else. In Stempniak’s case, it’s an opportunity to get comfortable with the team.

He’s not likely going to be headline-worthy most nights, but if he can compliment Crosby, then Pittsburgh will be very happy with how it did at the deadline.

  1. ibieiniid - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    just what everybody else in the league hoped wouldn’t happen.

    • pfhockey - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      yeah, watching him play on the line made me wish my team acquired him. Darn the genius of Shero and the wizard of Croz.

    • c9castine - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:41 PM

      crosby needs things on his line that most star players dont play with

      Straight line players. Grinding players. Speed, and a little scoring touch. Stempniak fits the bill. He grinds, works the boards and gets in front of the net. Crosby does everything, Kunitz is a forecheck and a shooter. Good line, but a long way to go to outdo the line when Dupuis was playing.

      I knew this was going to be one of the betters moves, but not many people would have believed me then. Solid player who will fit in real well with this team.

  2. jpelle82 - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    pretty slick one on one move he pulled to get to the net last game, he just couldnt finish. he seems to have gained some confidence with the puck as the games have gone on. just like anyone else who plays with sid though, he needs to have his stick on the ice and be ready for anything…and hopefully he learns to just shoot the puck right away

  3. timmons94 - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    He made one of best moves u will ever see other night… Solid player. Goc too. Still think Boston class of east

    • penguins87and71 - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      I’m not sure Boston is the class of the East, the Bruins are really good, but the Penguins are right up there with them. The Penguins are getting more and more players back from injury. Benett, Martin(Playoffs), Vokoun, and maybe Letang(Playoffs). If they get all these players back they will be extremely deep as a team. I think Pittsburgh can play with Boston, I’m not sure which team would win because their both so good, but I think this year the series would last longer then 4 games.

    • hockey412 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Boston and class do not belong in the same sentence.

      • lowenni - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        Unless “does not have” is included in the sentence.

    • c9castine - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      not sure why people think Boston is better than the Penguins. I am not saying either one is better than the other right now. Clearly the top two teams in the East by a mile.

      But I know how people like to use backwards logic, and say that last years series matters. You all know it doesnt anymore.

  4. blynasty - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    “He’s not likely going to be headline-worthy most nights”

    People said the same thing about Kunitz when he camera over from Anaheim, and nobody thought Dupuis would put up the numbers he has as a throw in on the Hossa deal. Bottom line is Crosby doesn’t need high end talent to produce results. Hard nosed players that work hard will have better results than “top wingers in the league”.

    • lowenni - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      Agreed, but Kunitz still rarely make headlines despite deserving it. That’s the price of playing on Crosby’s wing, same way Nicklas Backstrom doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for being Ovechkin’s center. Shows just how underrated Kunitz is. Fantastic player.

  5. rushledger - Mar 13, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Really dig this move, and it’s working well already.

  6. penguins87and71 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    I really hope the Penguins can sign Stempniak to maybe a 1 or 2 year deal, you put him on Crosby’s line and then you move Dupuis down to the 3rd line, the Penguins could have some serious forward depth next year if they can at least have Stempniak for another year or 2.

    • hockey412 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      It will be an interesting off season – A lot may depend on that cap number. Stempniak is another 3M a year player most likely…Sutter’s up for another contract, and also so is Jokinen, who is a player that I think has been really important to the team, and then there’s Niskanen. With Letang’s number going up I don’t know if they can do it without seeing someone like Martin get traded.

      • killerpgh - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        I slapped a potential roster together for next year with resigning Stempniak and giving the some of the RFA’s there qualifying offer raise. The 2 biggest questions regarding next years roster are how much will the Canadian dollar actually effect the projected 71.1 million cap and Letang’s health. Both of those should be clearer by the time free agency starts next year.

      • steelpenbucs87 - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        That doesn’t look half bad killer, but you have Tanner Glass on there for 125K…

      • killerpgh - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        What a bargain if he could somehow resign for below league minimum…

        That kind of screws up that. I meant to give him a raise up to 1.25 million, but forget one zero. Now that would put them slightly over the cap. But it’s not impossible to fit them under the cap and with Jason Botterill being one of the better salary cap guru’s I’m sure they can make it work.

  7. toiletclown - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    beau bennett has soft tissue. Trade him next season

    • jpelle82 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      he broke his wrist dude…you know…bones….not tissue

    • runhigh24 - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      What type of return would you expect for an injury prone wing with 4 career goals? Every GM in the league, with the possible exception of Garth Snow and Mike Gillis, will consider that and adjust any offer downward accordingly.

    • c9castine - Mar 13, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      toiletclown indeed

  8. toiletclown - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    bennetts soft tissue issues are making him near impossible for a trade next season. Who wants this girl?

    • ibieiniid - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      lol what team are you even a fan of? I’m thinking Rangers.

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