Lightning re-sign winger Steve Downie
Lightning restricted free agent Steve Downie, who was one of the more pleasant surprises last season emerging as an ideal compliment upfront to Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, has re-signed for two years and a reported $3.7 million.
“It’s a pretty exciting day for me,’’ he said Wednesday afternoon. “I came in last year not knowing who I was playing with and what my role was going to be and I got a great opportunity to play and things kind of took off for me personally.’’
A talented and hard-nosed right winger who, in his first full NHL season, produced career-best offensive numbers – 22 goals and 24 assists in 79 games and was tied for fourth in the NHL in shooting percentage (19.0) – and was an impressive team-best plus-14.
"It was really a great step forward for Steve last year,'' Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said, mentioning not just his providing a scoring punch but providing "the grit and the competitiveness and physical play'' that is a vital element for a winning team. "He's still a relativey young guy and we expect him to get better.''
Downie, 23, laid the foundation for a breakout season by dedicating himself more than ever in the offseason. He spent last summer working out with the team’s strength and conditioning coach and carried over that same work ethic to the season, usually getting on the ice 20 minutes before practice to hone his passing and shooting. He has spent this summer training with Stamkos and former Lightning player Gary Roberts, a renowned workout fanatic, in Ontario.
Just as important as his physical maturation, the former 2005 first-round pick draft pick of Philadelphia better controlled an on-ice temper that had limited his NHL opportunities. Although he had 208 penalty minutes, second on the team and third in the league, he rarely started fights selfishly or foolishly.
"Since I’ve been in the league I’ve learned so much and grown as a person,'' he said. "I’ve still got a lot to learn, but at least I have a base to start from, a base I can improve on. It’s nice to have the year I did last year, but it means nothing if I don’t follow it up.''
-- Brian Landman