CALGARY - As an ivy league graduate with a degree in economics, there’s no doubt Lee Stempniak knows business.
“I pay attention to things, the business side of things — the stock market — but by no means am I an active trader,” the Dartmouth grad said.
But the business side of hockey has kept Stempniak extremely active in the NHL’s trade market.
Joining the Calgary Flames from the Phoenix Coyotes this summer — straight up for Daymond Langkow — his latest journey is his third in just four years.
“I’d like to have some stability and be in one place,” the 28-year-old winger said. “But I think it’s just the nature of the business at times.”
That side of the game hasn’t always been easy for the West Seneca, N.Y. product, who joined the St. Louis Blues after the lockout and started his professional career with 14 goals and 27 points in 57 games.
He followed that up with a 27-goal, 52-point sophomore season and was rewarded by the Blues with a three-year deal worth $7.5 million.
But in his second year of that new contract, he wasn’t living up to expectations and was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo.
The trade shattered his world at the time.
“I was really comfortable in St. Louis,” said Stempniak. “I loved living there. I had a house and then was traded and was shocked by it.
“It probably took me longer to adjust to Toronto and jump in. It was just a new situation, and I don’t know if I handled it as well as I would have if I had to do it over again.”
Dealt to the Coyotes at the trade deadline the very next season, Stempniak was more prepared for what could happen.
“Now that it’s happened again, it’s still surprising, but I think I handled it better,” Stempniak said of his trade to the Flames after a 19-goal, 38-point season that again didn’t hold a candle to the numbers he put up the previous season.
“You’ve got to do things that make your own game successful.”
For Stempniak, that means sneaky skating and finding open space.
Consistency, though, is something he is still seeking.
In his two contract years, he put up his biggest numbers — that 27-goal breakout in his second season with the Blues, and a 28-goal campaign split between Toronto and Phoenix two years ago.
“To me, it’s purely a coincidence,” Stempniak said. “It’s one of those things.
“I don’t prepare any differently. I put so much pressure on myself. I take a lot of pride in working hard in the summer and doing all the little things right. I always try to play my best, from the pre-season to Game 82.
“It does sort of seem like there’s been some streaks throughout my career. I’d like to have more consistency.”
The Flames would love to see it this season. With it being a contract year, maybe they’ll get it regardless of the real reason for Stempniak’s previous personal bests.
So far, his growth has been noticeable in Calgary’s training camp.
“Steps has been good,” said head coach Brent Sutter. “I thought it took him some time in camp to adjust to things, but he seems to fit in really way. He seems very comfortable now.”
The next few months will determine whether or not he gets even more settled by earning a new contract with the Flames.
“I really like it so far. I’d certainly be open to staying,” Stempniak said. “I think it’s early in the process for both sides.
“It’s sort of in the back of my mind.”