After a year playing in the Swiss professional league, NHL veteran Matthew Lombardi is coming back to the league. The oft-injured center signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers to secure his return to the top level. Kevin Weekes of Hockey Night in Canada reports that the deal is worth $1.6 million.
Lombardi, who last played for the Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks during the 2012-13 season, spent 2013-14 playing for Geneve-Servette where he led the NLA in scoring with 50 points in 46 games. He also had an eight-point performance in four games at the Spengler Cup, an annual tournament that features top clubs from around the world.
It is likely that Lombardi's concussion history is to blame for his NHL exile last season. His second concussion had such severe post-concussion symptoms that he missed all but two games in the 2010-11 season and that recovery stretched into the following season. He managed 62 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12 before joining the Coyotes as a free agent the following year. He was then traded to the Anaheim Ducks where he appeared in just seven games.
Perhaps seen as a high-risk player with his history, he didn't find any deals after the 2012-13 season and headed to Switzerland, where fellow concussion-prone NHLer Peter Mueller also found work that same year.
The Rangers are taking on some risk with a two-year term, but at an annual cap hit of $800,000, they're not spending much for a veteran player who can play bottom six minutes and help contribute a bit offensively.
His last full season was in 2009-10 when Lombardi had 53 points in 78 games for the Coyotes. His speed and penalty killing abilities could be an asset assuming he stays healthy and his year away from the NHL didn't have any adverse effects.
The Rangers need to do just about everything on the cheap until they get their three big restricted free agents under new contracts. Forwards Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello all are awaiting arbitration hearings while negotiations with the Rangers continue.
Considering the Rangers lost a pair of important bottom-of-the-lineup forwards in Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot, adding Lombardi on a low-money deal is a rather creative move. If his performance in the Swiss league last season was any indication, Lombardi still has some good years left in him at age 32.
It's another of the low-risk, high-reward type deals that have been more frequent late in the summer as players start getting desperate for NHL work and teams have a specific hole to fill. Hopefully Lombardi can get through this season healthy and enjoy the last few years of his career.