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Luke Schenn signs two-year contract with Coyotes

Stay-at-home defenseman 'an interesting guy' for Arizona

by Jerry Brown / Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes signed unrestricted free agent Luke Schenn to a two-year, $2.5 million contract Saturday, continuing the offseason reconstruction of their defense.

Schenn, the No. 5 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, has played 566 NHL games for three teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings last season.

"I'm fortunate to play as long as I have, and so many games, but I still feel like I have lots to improve on and lots to learn," Schenn said. "That's what I'm looking forward to about Arizona."

Coyotes general manager John Chayka said the 26-year-old fits into their maturing core of young players and can have an impact on a defense that will be led by offensive-minded Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski.

Video: LAK@SJS, Gm4: Schenn trims the deficit from the point

"He's an interesting guy," Chayka said. "Everyone wants to focus on the negatives of his game rather than the positives. There are a lot of segments in his career where he was very impactful. He's 26, and players at the defense position take more time. He's played over 500 NHL games and he's kind of in the age group where the rest of our young players are.

"(Coyotes assistant coach) Jimmy Playfair had Robyn Regher (with the Calgary Flames), a similar defenseman when it comes to style of play. I have faith in Jimmy and our developmental staff to get [Schenn] back to where he was before in his career: a physical, impactful player who can make a good first pass and add to our back end."

Schenn played for the Maple Leafs the season after he was drafted and was named to the NHL All-Rookie team. He was traded to the Flyers after the 2012 NHL Draft for forward James van Riemsdyk and played with his younger brother, forward Brayden Schenn, in Philadelphia.

Luke completed a five-year, $18 million contract last season and is taking a pay cut for the chance to revive his career. He had four goals and 12 assists and was minus-2 in 72 games last season, and has 28 goals, 100 assists and is minus-24 with 409 penalty minutes in the NHL.

"I came into the NHL at 18," he said. "It's tough coming in at an age like that and playing in a couple of crazy hockey markets like Toronto and Philadelphia with a big learning curve along the way. You go through some up and down times."

Chayka said the gamble was a good one for each side.

"I think it's a matter of maturity for him," he said. "He's been an effective penalty killer in his career, and that's an area we need to address. We hope to take what was certainly a promising career early on, one that has a lot of years left in it, and make this a good fit."

Video: LAK@BOS: Schenn's rocket adds to the Kings' lead

The Coyotes will have Schenn (6-foot-2, 229 pounds) work with Playfair and skating coach Dawn Braid to make his game more compatible with the quicker NHL.

"It's gotten so much faster, and you have to constantly be skating because there are so many more skilled, quick players that are dangerous," Schenn said. "It's a part of my game I want to enhance."

Schenn said his 43 games in Los Angeles after being traded to the Kings with forward Vincent Lecavalier on Jan. 6 left him impressed with the Western Conference.

"It's a different style of game, a lot of bigger bodies but a ton of skilled guys too," he said. "I enjoyed it personally. The Pacific Division is one of the most competitive, if not the most competitive division, in the League. Arizona has an up-and-coming team and it's an awesome chance to play there and grow with the team."

The Coyotes have eight defensemen with an NHL contract: Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, Schenn, Kevin Connauton, Klas Dahlbeck, Zbynek Michalek and restricted free agents Connor Murphy and Michael Stone.

Chayka, who was named GM on May 5, has been looking to add a defenseman to play in the top four and said that remains a priority.

"We have lots of options," he said. "I don't think we're happy with where our overall group is, both forwards and defense. We're looking to improve and we have some depth to offer. There is still a lot to be played out in the market and we're going to continue to be active."

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