West Seneca native Lee Stempniak has reached a two-year agreement worth $3.5 million to remain with the Phoenix Coyotes. The winger will make $1.75 million in each of the next two seasons, according to the Arizona Republic. The deal is expected to be announced today.
Stempniak had been waiting to land a deal for two months as an unrestricted free agent but wound up in a crowded field of forwards looking for contracts. He expressed interest last month in playing for Buffalo, but there was very little, if any, serious discussions about the Sabres signing him. He ended up taking a 50 percent pay cut to stay with Phoenix.
The 27-year-old scored 14 goals and had 18 points in 18 games with the Coyotes, who acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal with Toronto. The former St. Francis and Buffalo Lightning star struggled with the Maple Leafs before becoming a key figure for the Desert Dogs down the stretch. Stempniak made $3.5 million last season.
He likely would have commanded much more in the open market after scoring 28 goals last season with Toronto and Phoenix, but teams across the league are either nudged against the cap or adhering to strict budgets. It has contributed to a massive logjam among forwards, many of whom still have not signed with training camps set to open in two weeks.
--- Bucky Gleason