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Tampa Bay Lightning signs restricted free-agent wing Steve Downie

TAMPA — Lightning restricted free-agent wing Steve Downie, who was one of the more pleasant surprises last season, emerging as an ideal complement to Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, has signed for two years and a reported $3.7 million.

"It's a pretty exciting day for me," Downie said Wednesday. "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."

In his first full NHL season, Downie produced career-best offensive numbers — 22 goals and 24 assists in 79 games — was tied for fourth in the league in shooting percentage (19.0) and was a team-best plus-14.

"It was really a great step forward for Steve last year," general manager Steve Yzerman said, mentioning that Downie provided not just scoring but "the grit and the competitiveness and physical play" that are vital for winning. "He's still a relatively young guy, and we expect him to get better."

Downie, 23, laid the foundation for a breakout season by dedicating himself more to the game in the offseason. He spent last summer working out with the team's strength and conditioning coach, and he carried over that 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.

The 2005 first-round draft pick of the Flyers also better controlled an on-ice temper that had brought him suspensions and limited his NHL opportunities. Although he had 208 penalty minutes, second on the team and third in the league, he rarely started foolish fights.

"Since I've been in the league, I've learned so much and grown so much as a person," Downie 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."

Also, the Lightning said veteran free-agent defenseman Randy Jones, 29, who has appeared in 265 games with the Flyers and Kings, signed a one-year deal believed to be for $1 million.

TV schedule announced: The Lightning is scheduled to make six national appearances on Versus this season under the TV schedule the league announced. The Versus games are Oct. 14 at the Flyers, Nov. 22 against the Bruins, Dec. 28 against the Bruins, Feb. 8 against the Sabres, March 7 against the Capitals and March 9 against the Blackhawks.

Canucks: Free-agent forward Raffi Torres signed a one-year, $1 million contract.

Kings: Free-agent defenseman Willie Mitchell, who sustained a concussion in January while with the Canucks, signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal.

Players union: Ex-baseball players union executive director Donald Fehr agreed to become NHL Players Association executive director, the SportsBusiness Journal reported. Fehr retired from the baseball union in 2009 after a 26-year tenure marked by a strike that canceled the World Series and record salaries. The NHL's collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to expire next year.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Lightning signs restricted free-agent wing Steve Downie 08/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 30, 2010 2:20pm]
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