Taylor Pyatt says his first choice was to stay in the Arizona desert.
But with ownership uncertainty clouding the contract picture in Phoenix, the Thunder Bay forward said he had to put his future first, the reason he signed a two-year, $3.1-million free agent contract last month with the New York Rangers.
Pyatt, who has also played with the New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks over an 11-year NHL career, said the deal came together in a hurry.
Choosing the New York Rangers was an easy call, he added.
“It’s a chance to win a Stanley Cup in one of the greatest cities in the world,” said Pyatt, coming off an up-and-down season that saw him put up nine goals and 10 assists in 73 games, a 12-point drop-off from 2010-11.
“To be able to go to New York, a team that’s a legit Stanley Cup contender and to be part of things there, I’m real excited about the move. It’s going to be a good change for me and I’m looking forward to the experience.”
Like his former team, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Rangers advanced to the NHL’s conference finals, falling to the New Jersey Devils. They were the No. 1 seed entering the postseason and Pyatt said there’s no reason they shouldn’t be an Eastern Conference favourite in 2012-13.
“I started looking over their roster and felt like I fit in good with that team and sort of what they’re doing there. I made the decision pretty quickly and I’m really happy I went that way,” he said Tuesday, taking part in the fifth-annual Thunder Bay Midget Kings alumni game in memory of late founder Jim Johnson.
If Pyatt’s regular season was a personal disappointment, his playoff performance certainly brought redemption to his game.
Pyatt had four goals and two assists in 16 games, as the third-seeded Coyotes rode the goaltending of Mike Smith to the semifinal round, the furthest they’d advanced in the franchise’s 33-year history, dating back to their days as the original Winnipeg Jets.
“The regular season was a little bit of a struggle for me and my confidence was up and down,” he said.
“I had a few injuries. But near the end of the season I started feeling my game coming around and in the playoffs I thought I played some of the best hockey of my career.
“We were able to get to the conference finals, that close and it hurts that much more when you lose like that. But I was happy I was able to play some real solid hockey and it was a lot of fun.”
A veteran of 755 NHL games, a career that’s seen the former first-round draft pick score 130 goals and 264 points, Pyatt will be a welcome addition to the Rangers this season, said new teammate and fellow Lakehead produce Marc Staal.
“He’s going to be a big help for us. And it’s pretty cool to be able to play with a guy you’ve known for a long time. So it should be good,” said Staal, who unlike older brother Eric and Carolina’s efforts to land free-agent forward Zach Parise, did not contact Pyatt prior to the signing.
“He’s a great guy, he’s physical and he’s going to definitely bring that physical element to our team. And the way he played in the playoffs and the way he raised his game is also a bonus.”
It is, however, something they’d briefly discussed in the distant past.
As for new coach John Tortorella, Pyatt said he’s looking forward to seeing what the hype is all about. Tortorella has a reputation of being loved by his players, not so much by members of the New York media.
Luckily Pyatt falls in the player category.
“I talked to him quickly the day I ended up signing. He’s real honest with you and he’ll never play mind games with you. I think that’s all you can really ask, especially for a player (like me) that’s been around the league for a long time. I just want a coach that’s honest with me and I look forward to playing for him.”
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