The New York Rangers have traded forward Lee Stempniak to the Winnipeg Jets in return for forward Carl Klingberg, according to TSN's Darren Dreger. Stempniak, 32, was signed to a one-year deal this past summer and had 18 points in 53 games with the Rangers. Klingberg, 24, was a second-round pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009 and has one goal in 12 NHL games.
It's a curious move by the Rangers, as they were supposedly looking to add forward depth; not trade it. Furthermore, Stempniak was having a good season; nine goals and 18 points in 53 games as well as great defensive work. His 49.8% SAT is solid in defensive minutes and while having Tanner Glass anchoring you much of the time.
Klingberg, meanwhile, is a project; to put it mildly. The 24-year-old has struggled to stick at the NHL level and has a modest 15 goals and 15 assists in 51 AHL games this season. He is 6'3 and 205, so one could see the Rangers wanting to take a flyer on his size. It's a bit unclear why the Rangers would prefer an aging project as opposed to a draft pick, given all the draft picks they've moved the last few years and today especially.
But back to Stempniak. Why move a player who is, at worst, a useful fourth-liner? Presumably, Jesper Fast being close to a return helps. And J.T. Miller finally has earned Alain Vigneault's trust, it seems.
Still, one gets the sense that the Rangers aren't done yet and were perhaps trying to clear cap space and/or roster spot. The trade makes no sense in any other context. Even if Vigneault trusts Fast, Glass, and Miller to play every game, why get rid of a reliable veteran at this time? The Rangers only have 12 forwards on the roster now, and are one injury away from trusting Lindberg in the playoffs or throwing Chris Mueller into the mix. Not exactly an ideal situation. I'm sure, if not, we'll get some rationale for the move soon. But something tells me Glen Sather isn't done.