The Flyers shipped Max Talbot to Colorado on Thursday to bring back former Flyer Steve Downie. (AP)
Steve Downie is a Flyer. Again.
The former first-round pick in 2005 (29th overall) was obtained Thursday afternoon from Colorado for the Flyers’ top forward on the penalty kill, Max Talbot.
The 26-year-old Downie is a more talented version of Zac Rinaldo –- he has better hands and was once a 20-goal scorer with Tampa Bay -- but hasn’t scored more than 12 since the 2009-10 season.
Downie will give the Flyers only a marginal scoring boost over what they have now unless they intend to use him on Claude Giroux’s line to create space for Giroux, who has no goals this season and none in his last 17 games going back to last season.
"I'm definitely thinking about that," head coach Craig Berube said of playing Downie on Giroux's line, "but there are some other things we can use [Downie] for as well."
General manager Paul Holmgren said he didn’t ask Vinny Lecavalier for a recommendation.
“[Downie’s] a good player, a better player than maybe people give him credit for,” Holmgren said. “He’s good with the puck, strong on the puck. He can make a lot of plays.
“I’m not sure how Chief (coach Craig Berube) is going to use him. We were talking about it a few minutes ago. We’ll get him in there tomorrow. He’ll add a lot to our team.”
Downie, a right wing, can play three positions.
“He goes to the front of the net with a purpose and can hold onto the puck and make plays," Holmgren said. “He’ll add a lot in that department.”
Creating space appears to have been Downie’s role in Colorado on Matt Duchesne’s top line with Ryan O’Reilly. He played briefly on a line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in Tampa Bay, as well.
Of course, if Downie fails at this role, don’t look for him to add a ton of goals. Downie’s biggest numbers are 696 career penalty minutes in 285 NHL games.
As a Flyer, he was often out of control. He has since settled down.
“He’s matured exponentially in that regard,” Holmgren said. “But he still plays the game hard. He’s probably going to take the odd penalty just because he plays the game hard.
“Sometimes, that’s a good thing. You want hard players and players who are hungry and get to the front of the net, and that’s Steve.
“I like the hunger and energy he brings to the game. He’ll help us. ... We needed something to stir the pot. I think Steve will help us in that regard.”
Former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, who had Downie in Tampa Bay, says the Flyers lack something and it was evident in the third period collapse against Anaheim.
“He changes the momentum,” Tocchet said. “Against Anaheim, a good first (period). Second period was okay. And you could tell they were losing themselves in the third period. He’s a guy who can go out and change momentum.
“Get in front of a goalie, win two battles in the corner, kick the puck to the net. He hits guys and wakes your bench up. He plays a top six.
“And he’s a natural right shot which would help Giroux. ... Claude Giroux might start scoring goals playing with Steve Downie.”
Tocchet cautioned that Downie needs “a short leash” from Berube.
“Craig Berube is a great coach for him,” Tocchet said. “The upside is very big in a top-six forward in a playoff series, who can play against someone seven nights, keep teams off balance and make that great pass. It’s a good trade for the Flyers. Not much of a risk.”
Downie carries a $2.65 million salary cap hit while Talbot had a $1.75 million cap hit. Through 11 games this season in Colorado, Downie had just one goal and six assists.
Although healthy, he suffered a torn ACL (right knee) injury with the Avalanche last season and missed all but two games.
“He’s been hurt and has some issues, but there’s a hockey player there,” Tocchet said.
Talbot, one of just two players who is a plus player (plus-1), had two points with the Flyers –- a goal and an assist -- but was a terrific penalty killer, averaging 3:35 a game, most of any forward.
“He’s done a good job for us,” Holmgren said. “Max was a great player for the Flyers in the time he was here. It’s a tough call. Right now, other players are going to fill that hole.”
The Flyers had used the 29-year-old Talbot a few times on the first line in recent games. Obviously, they were showcasing him.
The Avs, who are first in the Central Division, have the No. 1 penalty kill in the league at 92.3 percent.
They didn’t need a Max Talbot. So why make the trade?
Leadership: Talbot’s won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh and was the guy who carried the Pens in Game 7 in Detroit with two goals.