Coyotes sign Richardson, Michalek to start free agency
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Coyotes signed forwards Brad Richardson and Steve Downie, added goalie Anders Lindback and brought back defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
That’s forward depth, a backup goalie and some blue line stability within a few hours of the free agency period. Later on Wednesday, they also brought back Antoine Vermette, the popular centerman who just won a Stanley Cup with Chicago.
Now that the shopping spree is over, it’s time for the Coyotes to add a big-ticket player or two.
“This is the warm-up act for what we need to do,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said on Wednesday. “We need to add some skill.”
The skill will likely come via a trade with a thin market of skill players available in free agency.
Coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Coyotes had plenty of holes to fill after veering in a youthful direction at last season’s trade deadline.
Arizona has some talented young players, some of whom appear to be ready for bigger roles. To help them along the way, the Coyotes were hoping to add some depth and veteran leadership in an effort to make it a short turnaround back to respectability.
Arizona took a solid first step on Tuesday, trading Lauri Korpikoski to Edmonton for Boyd Gordon, a steady veteran forward whose forte is killing penalties, winning faceoffs and the kind of two-way game that fits into coach Dave Tippett’s system.
Once the free agency period began Wednesday morning, the Coyotes were active from the get-go, firing off a series of signings that added depth and grit to the team.
“We have a good base in place now,” Maloney said. “I feel a lot better about our team today than I did two days ago.”
Vermette was one of Arizona’s most popular players for fans and teammates alike during four seasons in the desert. The Coyotes traded him at the deadline last season, though, and he went on to be a key contributor to the Blackhawks’ third title in six seasons.
Vermette became a free agent after the season and didn’t take long in re-joining the Coyotes, signing a two-year, $7.5 million contract to return to a place he never really wanted to leave.
Richardson has scored 62 goals with 87 assists in 10 NHL seasons with stops in Vancouver, Los Angeles and Colorado. The 30-year-old had eight goals and 13 assists with the Canucks last season, when he was limited to 45 games due to an ankle injury.
Richardson, who signed a three-year deal, won a Stanley Cup title with the Kings in 2012 and, like Gordon, fits into Tippett’s system.
Michalek didn’t really want to leave the desert after ending up with the Coyotes a second time, but was traded to St. Louis in a deadline deal last season as Arizona shifted into its youth movement. He was eager to rejoin the Coyotes and signed a two-year deal, giving them a steady, stay-at-home defenseman and popular player in the locker room.
“I never wanted to get traded, but it was the best thing for the team and I understood,” Michalek said. “I was hoping to come back.”
Downie is a bruising player who has a little scoring punch to go with his fists. He’s amassed 1,004 penalty minutes in 408 NHL games, though he has 73 goals and 117 assists.
The 28-year-old has played for five teams in eight NHL seasons, most recently with Pittsburgh, where he had 14 goals and 14 assists last season.
Maloney said Downie’s primary role will be to protect Arizona’s cache of young skill players.
Lindback gives the Coyotes a veteran backup to Mike Smith.
The 27-year-old is 16-13-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average during a five-year NHL career that includes stops at Nashville, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Buffalo.
“I like where we’re at,” Maloney said. “We’ve solidified our blue line and strengthened our lower lines.”
Now they can focus on adding the big piece they’ve been missing.
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