With an eye toward adding depth to the Colorado Avalanche forward group and bolstering their penalty killing, the team Thursday acquired forward Maxime Talbot from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade for forward Steve Downie.
Talbot, 29, had two points in 11 games with the Flyers this season, but led their forwards in shorthanded ice time per game at 3:35. The Avalanche entered play Thursday with the NHL's top penalty-killing unit at 92.3 percent.
"I thought we were a little short in [penalty-kill] players, and Talbot is very good in that regard," coach Patrick Roy said. "He's a really good [penalty-kill] guy and I think it's going to help a lot. It went well the first month because we played 11 games in the month of October, but in the next three or four months we play 14 games in every month. I don't want to overplay some guys. It's important to share the ice time. I think Talbot is going to be very important for us."
Roy said Talbot would meet the team in Dallas on Thursday and be in the lineup when the Avalanche face the Dallas Stars on Friday. Where he plays, however, remains to be seen. Roy said another strong suit with Talbot is his versatility.
"Talbot will play with [Nathan] MacKinnon and [Jamie] McGinn or [John] Mitchell," Roy said. "What I like also is Talbot is a centerman and that gives us flexibility. We can put Mitchell on the third line with McGinn, we can put Talbot at center on the fourth line. He's a centerman and can play both wings very easily."
Talbot said he's fine with wherever Roy wants him.
"I guess my bread and butter is killing penalties," Talbot said. "Two years ago I had a breakout season with 19 goals which I enjoyed. I can bring versatility to the game and I like to play with emotion. I've heard nothing but good things about Patrick Roy, so I'm really excited to be part of it now."
A nine-year veteran, Talbot has 77 goals and 154 points in 515 games with the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. He has 18 goals and 39 points in 77 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and memorably scored both goals for the Penguins in their 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.
Center - COL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 14 | +/-: 1
"Talbot has won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh," Roy said. "He's a great penalty killer. We feel that he's going to bring a lot of depth to our team. He's a guy that has performed also really well in the playoffs and we think he'll be a great addition to our team."
Talbot said moving from a team that entered Thursday 15th in the Eastern Conference to one that is second in the Western Conference was a welcome feeling.
"Playing in Pittsburgh for so long and in my first year in Philly, we made the playoffs every year and you kind of get used to that," he said. "It was kind of a battle last year and again this year. Now I get traded to a team that has a great deal of momentum right now. It's exciting. They're on top of the League and there's a reason for that. They're a young team. They have a deep roster with a lot of young skill and they should be good for years to come."
The Avalanche sent Downie back to the Flyers, who selected him in the first round (No. 29) of the 2005 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Flyers in the 2007-08 season and spent parts of two seasons with Philadelphia before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2008-09 season.
Downie, 26, has one goal and six points in 11 games this season and primarily played right wing on the Avalanche's top line, alongside center Matt Duchene and left wing Ryan O'Reilly.
With Philadelphia, Downie could be the top-line left wing and skate with center Claude Giroux and right wing Vincent Lecavalier. Rookie Michael Raffl had been in that spot the past few games, but he has one assist in six games this season. The Flyers host the Washington Capitals on Friday.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said the decision where to play Downie would fall to coach Craig Berube, but the GM said he was happy to have Downie back with the organization.
"Steve's a good player," Holmgren said. "A better player than maybe people give him credit for. He's strong on the puck, can make a lot of plays. I'm not sure how [Berube] will play him. We'll get him in here [Friday]. I think he can add a lot to our team."
Downie said he wasn't concerned on which line he plays.
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 7
SOG: 26 | +/-: 4
"I haven't put much thought into what my role might be," he said. "I can play on all four lines. It's really up to the coach. I'm going to help the team as much as I can. As far as my role, it'll play itself out."
Downie's best NHL season came in 2009-10 with the Lightning, when he played with Steven Stamkos on the top line.
"Steve is a very hungry player," Holmgren said. "He goes to the front of the net with purpose and he can really make plays. He can add a lot in that department. … He can play in your top nine on a consistent basis. He can play any [forward] position and movie up and down the lineup."
Downie has 56 goals and 145 points in seven seasons with the Flyers, Lightning and Avalanche.
Downie is known as a gritty, physical player. He has 696 penalty minutes in his NHL career, and is eighth in the League this season with 36. The Flyers entered play Thursday as the fourth-most penalized team in the League, averaging 15.4 penalty minutes per game.
Downie's first stint in Philadelphia was marred by a 20-game suspension at the start of the 2007-08 season for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond during a preseason game. Downie has been suspended one other time since then, and though he enjoys playing physical, he said he thinks the version who returns to Philadelphia is a more mature version of the one the Flyers saw a few seasons ago.
"I was 19, 20 years old the first time I was there," he said. "I was a lot younger. ... I think I've grown as a player and a person. I'm excited to show Philly what an older Steve Downie looks like."
Holmgren agreed, saying he believes Downie has grown to understand how to be physical while avoiding penalties.
"I think he's matured exponentially in that regard but he still plays the game hard," Holmgren said. "He's probably going to take the odd penalty just because he plays the game hard. But sometimes that's a good thing. You want hard players, you want players that are hungry and want to get to the net and do things."
The move could give the Flyers flexibility with the NHL salary cap. Downie is in the final season of a two-year, $5.3 million contract and can become an unrestricted free agent in July. Talbot has two more seasons remaining on the five-year, $8.75 million contract he signed in July 2011.