GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes got Shane Doan his center Wednesday. It wasn’t David Krejci or Evander Kane — or any of the players Coyotes fans might have been dreaming of — but it was the guy Doan had been dreaming of.
Phoenix dealt a fourth-round pick in 2014 to Toronto for Matthew Lombardi, who spent a season-plus with the Coyotes a few years ago, mostly playing alongside Doan.
“Lombo’s one of those guys that we all missed,” Doan said. “That’s a huge get for us. Playing with him and the speed that he brings to our lineup — he’s world-class fast. There’s not a lot of guys in the league that are world-class fast.”
Lombardi’s acquisition was no surprise if you had been reading the tea leaves. He spent much of the offseason training with the Coyotes, and general manager Don Maloney said he even lived at Doan’s ranch in the fall because the pair have become good friends.
In the 2009-10 season, Lombardi had 19 goals and a career-high 53 points in 78 games for the Coyotes. Phoenix acquired him from Calgary the previous season, and in 19 games at the end of that season he had five goals and 16 points. His career high in goals was 20 with Calgary in 2006-07.
“When he was here, he fit in with our group very well,” coach Dave Tippett said, noting Lombardi’s ability to play center or wing. “When his name came up, we just thought he was a guy that we could add to our lineup that would be a real plus for us.”
Lombardi missed 80 games two seasons ago with Nashville while dealing with what Maloney said was a neck issue. Last season in Toronto, he had a dreadful season, notching eight goals and 18 points in 62 games with a minus-19 plus-minus rating.
Maloney is convinced that was a product of circumstance since Lombardi had just been cleared to play during training camp before last season.
“It’s virtually impossible to catch up when you’re always trying to chase to get up to speed,” Maloney said. “We see him as a centerman; they had him playing a lot of wing. The long and short of it is we just knew we had a little more insight than maybe the next team.”
Lombardi insists that the injury and last season’s struggles are behind him.
“I feel as good as I’ve felt in a long time,” he said “Physically, I’m in great shape.”
Lombardi has only one year left on his deal at a prorated $3.5 million. Due to the shortened season, the Coyotes will pay 58 percent of their portion of Lombardi’s salary, which Maloney pegged at about $1.9M with a $2 million cap hit. The Leafs are on the hook for the rest. Maloney also said the Coyotes will pay Lombardi’s $500,000 signing bonus initially, but the Leafs will reimburse them.
In that light, he carries minimal risk and a significant potential reward.
“If we can get him back to where he was a couple years ago, that’s the key to this deal. We’re very strong all of the sudden if everything comes together,” Maloney said. “There were times he was our best centerman. When you can add a player like that … I really like where we’re at.”
Lombardi may be just as excited as the Coyotes about his return.
“Dave Tippett gave me a great opportunity to play in different situations. I guess I had a lot of confidence in the coaches, and that just kind of carried onto the ice,” Lombardi said of his previous stint here. “When you have people that support you and trust your team and trust you as a player, it gives you even more confidence.”