Coyotes bring back Nick Bjugstad, Troy Stecher on 1st day of free agency

Jul 1, 2023, 4:14 PM | Updated: 4:34 pm

Arizona Coyotes center Nick Bjugstad (17) gets hooked by San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (6...

Arizona Coyotes center Nick Bjugstad (17) gets hooked by San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (62) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Tempe, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NHL free agency began Saturday, and Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong brought back several familiar faces.

After adding veteran Jason Zucker earlier, the Coyotes further added to their squad by signing four more free agents: Nick Bjugstad, Troy Stecher, Alex Galchenyuk and Matt Villalta.

Nick Bjugstad, two-year contract

Bjugstad, 30, returns to the Coyotes after he was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers by Arizona last season.

In 2022-23, Bjugstad scored 13 goals with 10 assists with 26 penalty minutes  in 59 games with the Coyotes. He also recorded 4-2-6 in 19 regular season games and scored three goals in 12 playoff games with Edmonton.

The 6-foot-6, 209-pound forward’s 13 goals with the Coyotes ranked fourth on the team at the time of being traded to Edmonton last season. His 29 combined points with the Coyotes and Oilers were his highest single-season scoring output since Bjugstad recorded an NHL career-best 19-30-49 in 82 games in 2017-18 with the Panthers.

“He is a reliable two-way center, a good leader, and a great teammate,” Armstrong said in a press release.

Troy Stecher, one-year contract

Stecher, 29, is another player returning for his second stint with the Coyotes. After signing with the club prior to the 2022-23 season, he registered 0-7-7 with 29 penalty minutes in 61 games and was traded to the Calgary Flames ahead of the deadline.

The 5-foot-10, 184-pound defenseman produced 3-4-7 in 20 games with the Flames for a combined 3-11-14 in 81 games last year.

“He is a veteran defenseman who skates well, competes hard and can move the puck effectively. He will be a solid addition to our blueline,” Armstrong said.

Alex Galchenyuk, one-year, two-way contract

Galchenyuk is back in the Valley for a third time. In 2018-19, Galchenyuk collected 19-22-41, nine power-play goals and 21 power-play points in 72 games, leading Arizona in power-play goals and power-play points that season.

“We are very pleased to welcome back Alex to our organization,” Armstrong said. “He is a hard-working, versatile forward who will add depth to our group.”

During the 2021-22 campaign, the veteran forward recorded 6-15-21 in 60 games with the Coyotes.

Last season, the 29-year-old Galchenyuk played in 11 games with the Colorado Avalanche and 42 games with the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.

Matt Villalta, one-year, two-way contract

Villalta was a third-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in 2017.

The 23-year-old played in 22 games for the Ontario Reign of the AHL last year, posting a 12-8-1 record, a .910 save percentage, a 2.65 goals against average and one shutout.

In 108 career AHL games, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound netminder has posted a record of 58-32-14 record, a .901 save percentage, a 3.04 goals against average and two shutouts.

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