GLENDALE – Without question, the Coyotes became a grittier and nastier team this week when they signed free-agent forward Steve Downie to a one-year contract. But they didn't simply add a journeyman tough guy; they also added a seasoned NHL veteran who can provide secondary scoring.
"Steve has been known to stick up for his teammates, but we believe he is a better hockey player than people give him credit," Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. "We look at him to step in and make a nice contribution."
The Coyotes are Downie's fifth NHL team since he was drafted 29th overall by the Flyers in 2005. He has played 408 games for Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Colorado and Pittsburgh. In those games, Downie has notched 73 goals, including 22 for Tampa Bay in 2009-10 and 14 for Pittsburgh last season on 13.5 percent shooting. Downie notched eight multi-point games in 2014-15, and 11 of his goals were even-strength goals. That ranked seventh-best on the high-powered Penguins.
"I've had a variety of roles over the years," Downie said. "I haven’t really figured out what my role is going to be with this team (in Arizona), but I'm just looking to fit in and try to help get some wins under the belt."
Downie led the NHL last season with 238 penalty minutes. It's worth noting that he had the most points (28) as the NHL's penalty minutes leader since 2005-06 when Sean Avery of the Los Angeles Kings recorded 39 points and led the League with 257 penalty minutes.
|Steve Downie. Photo by Getty Images. |
Maloney said a big reason Arizona signed Downie was so the team would have someone to provide protection for some of the younger players he expects to crack the lineup in 2015-16.
"We're excited to have him," Maloney said. "We think it's a good value for us and gives us a little more pushback. We don't want to be bullied. The league rules protect you but if we do have some younger players, we want to make sure they're going to be comfortable to play."
That sounds OK to Downie.
"It's more a part of my game," Downie said. "Every team I've played on usually likes to protect each other out there. Saying that, I don't think you can do that with just one person. It's a team effort. I think (Arizona) has a couple players that will take care of stuff like that."
Regarding fighting, Downie, who dropped the gloves eight times last season, said he believes there’s still room for it in today’s NHL.
"I think what they're trying to get out of the game are the staged fights," Downie said. "They want to keep the intensity of the game. When two competitors are competing as hard as they can, I think they're going to get out of control sometimes and that's when a fight is going to happen. I think there is good fighting and bad fighting, and the League has done the right steps to separate the two."
Downie will see a few familiar faces on his first day with the Coyotes. Goalie Mike Smith was one of his teammates in Tampa Bay, and forward Kyle Chipchura was one of his linemates for Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championship; they each scored a goal in Canada's 5-0 win over Russia in the title game.
And, he said, everybody knows Shane Doan.