Arizona is a long, long way from Sweden. But for Nicklas Grossmann, the Southwestern state will feel like home — in a way.
Grossmann was traded to Arizona by the Philadelphia Flyers over the weekend, making the Coyotes the third team of his NHL career. The transition to a new city (the Coyotes play in Glendale) and team will be smoother than the norm for the veteran defenseman.
Selected by Dallas in the second round of the 2004 draft, Grossmann spent parts of six seasons with the Stars before being dealt to the Flyers on February 16, 2012. During the first half of his tenure in the Lone Star State, the 30-year-old was guided by current Coyotes coach Dave Tippett.
“I enjoy playing for him,” Grossmann told ArizonaCoyotes.com. “He stands for a disciplined team game with a focus on good defense and speed. He’s a great coach and I’m excited to be reunited with him.”
Tippett is not the only member of the Coyotes with which Grossmann is familiar. The 6-foot-4 Swede was teammates with Arizona goaltender Mike Smith with both the Stars and Iowa of the American Hockey League.
“It’s going to take a little time to meet the boys, but having people I know around, like Tippett and Mike Smith, will help me make the transition,” Grossmann said. “It will be fun to reunite with them, but I’m also excited to meet new teammates too.”
One of those new teammates he should get to know well is countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona’s top offensive defenseman. The 23-year-old topped the team in scoring last season with 43 points and led all NHL blue-liners with 23 goals.
That’s 13 more tallies than the career total of Grossmann, who scored a personal-best five goals in 2014-15. While Tippett will look to Ekman-Larsson for offense from the blue line, Grossmann will be called upon to provide some leadership to youngsters like Klas Dahlbeck.
“It feels good,” Grossmann said of the role. “I can try to use my experience to help out as much as I can, on and off the ice.”
Grossmann recorded only three goals but added 38 assists in 333 games with the Stars. He registered seven tallies and 31 assists in 198 contests with Philadelphia, producing a career-high 14 points in each of the last two seasons.
He obviously is not known for his offensive prowess. Grossmann is, however, a strong penalty-killer who will provide a physical presence on Arizona’s blue line.
“We’ve added an important defenseman and we’ll continue to work to build our roster,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told the team site. “This is the first step of retooling our defense.”
Having coached Grossmann in the past, Tippett knows full well what the 230-pounder brings to the table. As a result, he likely had a hand in bringing the native of Stockholm to the desert.
“He’s a solid teammate, a very honest player. And from a coaching standpoint, he’s not a guy you’re worried about being prepared,” Tippett told FOX Sports Arizona. “Nick defends with position and smarts, and he’s big enough to eliminate people. We need to have a good mix on our blue line, and a left-handed penalty-kill guy is something we’ve been missing.”