Matthew Lombardi said the fact that he enjoyed playing for Barry Trotz a couple of years ago at the World Championships is a big reason he's a Nashville Predator today.
Lombardi, a speedy center who was one of the top remaining forwards in this year's free agent class, will get to play for Trotz for the next three seasons after signing a deal with the Predators on Friday. No financial terms were disclosed, but media reports say the 28-year-old center will earn $10.5 million, an average of $3.5 million for three years.
The chance to play for Trotz, the only coach the Predators have had since entering the NHL in 1998, was a factor in Lombardi's decision to come to Nashville after helping the Phoenix Coyotes to the fourth-best record in the NHL in 2009-10.
"I had Barry at the World Championships two years ago when he was an assistant coach for Team Canada," Lombardi told reporters during a conference call on Friday night. "That was part of the decision. I knew what kind of a person he was. I talked to him on the phone (during negotiations) and we had a good conversation. I've played with guys who've played for him and have said great things. You really want to go somewhere where the coach is respected and the guys like him."
Lombardi scored 19 goals and added 34 assists in 78 games for the Coyotes in 2009-10. The 53 points were a career high, while the 19 goals were one short of his career best of 20, set in 2006-07 with Calgary, which chose him in the third round (No. 90) of the 2002 Entry Draft.
"I enjoyed my time in Phoenix," he said. "It's a great place to play, I made some really good friends and it was a great opportunity for me there. It's tough to leave, but that's part of the business. You've got to move on.
"I talked with Barry about the guys and my role on the team and I thought it was the best fit for me. They've got a great core of guys and a really good young group coming up. I'm excited about the opportunity I have to come and help this team."
Lombardi said waiting until the second day of free agency before agreeing to a contract wasn't easy.
"It was definitely nerve-wracking," he said when asked about not having a deal in place after the first day of the free agent signing period. "You weigh your options. It's a pretty big moment in terms of everything. There's a lot of different things you look at. For myself and my family, it was a really big decision to make, whether to speed the process up or sit back and wait and have a little patience.
"I'm not going to lie -- I was getting pretty anxious about how things were going. I really wasn't sure how it was going to turn out; I didn't know if something was going to happen right away or if it was going to take a bit of time. I needed a bit of time to figure things out and decide what was best for my family and myself."
The biggest thing that figures to excite Nashville fans about Lombardi is simple -- his skating.
"My speed is really my No. 1 asset. It's how I generate my offense," he said. "I think the way the game's being called now, it's definitely a speed game. Guys who skate well are getting more opportunity to use (their speed). There's not as much clutching and grabbing -- it's more open.
"That plays in my favor. For me to be a good player, I have to be using my speed. When I'm not skating, I'm definitely not as effective."Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist