GM Steve Yzerman says he wants Steve Downie's contract done "as soon as possible"

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July

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he has reached out to the agent for right wing Steve Downie in order to get contract negotiations started.

"Rick Curran and I have had initial talks," Yzerman said of Downie's agent. "We're going to get the ball rolling and get into it in the very near future, and I will make my offer to get Steve under contract."

There really isn't much doubt Downie will sign. He is a restricted free agent, and barring another team making an offer (which the Lightning has a right to match), Downie's only other options if he is unhappy with a contract situation is to sit out or go to Europe. And it is only July.

Still, Downie is a big piece to the puzzle. He had a breakout season in 2009-10 with 22 goals and 46 points in 79 games. And while he was second on the team and third in the league with 208 penalty minutes, he avoided the stupid and excessive situations that so often got him into trouble in the past. A lot of that had to do with how he was handled by former coach Rick Tocchet, who saw Downie as kind of cut from the same cloth. It will be interesting to see if Downie has the same relationship with new coach Guy Boucher. But that is a discussion for a different time.

Anyway, with Simon Gagne on the team, Downie is the only unsigned piece on the Lightning's two well-stocked offensive lines. It seems crazy to think that having come this far, Yzerman will not do everything he can to keep those two lines intact.

"My intention is to get him signed as soon as possible and in a Lightning uniform, ready to go, to start the season," Yzerman said.

What is Downie looking for in a contract? Curran declined to say. He did, however, say this:

"It's fair to say they recognize what Steve has accomplished this past season, the success that he enjoyed, and that he's viewed as someone who will be part of the future going forward. I'd like to think the tenor of the discussions will be on that basis. I have a lot of respect for Steve (Yzerman), and I'd like to think we'll be able to come up with something that's fair to both Steve (Downie) as a player as to what he's likely to achieve and fair to the club." 

[Last modified: Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:15am]

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