After a wonderful season that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of Phoenix fans, the NHL’s Coyotes are hoping for some good news as former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison is supposed to close his ownership group’s deal with the city of Glendale in the immediate future.
I think that most Phoenix Coyotes fans are hoping that Jamison and his new crew will open up their pocketbooks and re-sign key free agents while allowing the club to go out and spend on some of the coveted scorers on the open market. Unfortunately, while there may be a slight increase in spending, Jamison and his group have told sources that no major increase in the free agent budget is planned for the upcoming season. This partially hamstrings GM Don Maloney, who should be given major kudos for the way he has navigated the stormy seas during his tenure as the leader of the squad’s player personnel department. He has done a magnificent job cultivating the roster into a group of hungry, passionate players who achieved a Western Conference Finals berth when no prognosticators gave them a chance of accomplishing it.
What the front office has to decide in the offseason is how do they make next year’s ‘Yotes team better than this year’s squad. How do they approach the upcoming free agent period? Who do they try to re-sign? In my blog today, I will explore who I think the Coyotes should let go of and who they should bring back. I will try to give performance and monetary reasons to help support my conclusions.
Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA’s)- Age- Current Salary (according to Cap Geek.com)
Michal Rozsival- 33 yrs. old-$5 million- Rozsival was a solid performer throughout the season and one of the top two defenseman we had during the playoffs. He is a stay at home defenseman who is good on the penalty kill and in even strength situations. He is not offensively gifted, but is situationally adept (1G-12A-13P-+8 during the regular season).
Verdict- The Coyotes need to try to renegotiate a lower salary and try to bring him back for 2 more years at a reduced rate. Knee health also a concern after the playoff injury he sustained from Dustin Brow during the Kings series. If he wants $5 million+ a season, the Coyotes have to let him walk and give one of their younger guys (Schlemko, Stone, Summers, Goncharov) a chance.
Adrian Aucoin- 38 yrs. old- $2,000,000- Aucoin began to show his age this year. When healthy, he played admirably. But, he only played in 64 games. His statistics were average at best(2G-7A-9P-+14), but he lost a step and was playing on the 3rd defense line for most of the season after seeing his minutes cut. He provides a veteran physical presence, but did not play as much on the power play this season as he has in the past, which led to a dip in his production.
Verdict- At 38, Aucoin’s best days are behind him and the Coyotes have to let him walk. Apply the$2 million you save towards an up and comer or a younger veteran on the market.
Kurt Sauer- 31 yrs. old- $1.75 million- Tragic is the only word to describe Sauer’s days with the Coyotes. Saddled with serious concussion issues since he arrived, Sauer never was able to contribute and unfortunately will never play competitively again. He comes off the books this year.
Verdict- Use this money combined with the Aucoin money (total-$ 3.75 million) and bring in a veteran to challenge the youngsters for one of the top 6 defensive positions.
Shane Doan- 35 yrs. old- $4.55 million- Captain Coyote is all you can ask for in a leader. He is a physical menace on the ice, he plays with a ton of heart and courage, his offensive numbers could be better (22G-28A-50P- -8) but are solid and his locker room presence is discussed all the time by his teammates as a main reason why the team is successful. His age scares me a bit, but Doan is always in phenomenal shape.
Verdict- You have to keep him on this squad. Letting him walk would gut this squad. He is a lifelong Coyote and the fan base would riot if they let him go. I wish he would take a slight pay cut or come back for something similar to what he is making now. If he asks for too much of a raise, you may have to think about letting him go. I don’t think Doan is the type of guy to hold Phoenix’s feet to the fire in contract negotiations and I fully expect him back next year with a 2-3 year deal signed this offseason.
Daymond Langkow- 35 yrs. old- $4.5 million- When I first saw his cap number, I almost fell out of my chair. Langkow is a shell of the player that he used to be. Ever since he injured his neck a couple of years ago, he has never been the same. Consistency is his biggest issue. This year he has looked tenacious and skilled at times, but more often than not he disappears and you don’t even know he is out there. His offensive numbers (11G-19A-30P- -4) are nowhere near good enough to justify his salary. He plays on the penalty kill and is essentially a 3rd line player during this stage of his career.
Verdict- When your team tends to be strapped for cash, you cannot justify paying a player this type of money for this type of performance. If the Coyotes can bring him back for half of what they are paying him now, you entertain the thought. If he wants $2.5 million or more, you let him go.
Ray Whitney- 40 yrs. old- $3 million- Interesting case with the Wizard. He is offensively gifted (24G-53A-77P- +26), demonstrating his proficiency by leading the Coyotes in points. He is the team’s power play quarterback. But, he’s 40 years old, he gets pushed around physically, he has disappeared in big games and he has lost a step or two on the ice which hurts him defensively in his own end.
Verdict- Sign him on a year to year basis if he is willing to do it. Offer him a minimal raise ($3-4 million) as a reward for his performance. Ideally, I think the team can sign him for 2 years (3 years, only if the 3rd year is a team option). If he wants more than that, the Coyotes might have to let him walk. If he wants more than $4 million a year, the Coyotes might have to let him walk. I hope they can strike a short term deal with him to keep him in the fold.
Taylor Pyatt- 30 yrs. old- $1 million- Pyatt is an enigma. He was one of our biggest under-performers during the regular season, but one of our better players during the playoffs. He has so much potential, but doesn’t always fulfill it. He is a big boy, but doesn’t use his size all the time to become physically dominant. He has good offensive skills, but blows offensive chance all the time. During the playoffs, he was a changed man and played like the Taylor Pyatt we all thought he could be. He was physical, he took advantage of his offensive opportunities and he played hard the entire time. His numbers aren’t staggering during the regular season (9G-10A-19P- -4), but he had 6 points during the playoffs.
Verdict- Bring him back for near the same amount of money ($1-2 million). If he is going to try to break the bank, the Coyotes can let him go and bring up Marc Antoine Pouliot to take his place. I just fear signing him to a big deal and he reverts back to regular season Taylor Pyatt versus postseason Taylor Pyatt.
Tomorrow, I will explore the restricted free agents the Coyotes have and who we need to keep from that pool if others try to sign them. I will also look into the top UFA’s on the market and see who might fit in best with Coach Dave Tippett’s system and within the financial constraints the Coyotes will have to operate under.
About the Author
Written by Michael Jenkins
I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. Graduated from THE University of Arizona. I now reside part time in San Francisco, CA. I am a diehard Phoenix Coyotes fan (season ticket holder since Day 1) and a diehard Chelsea FC fan. I am passionate, energetic and highly grateful to get the opportunity to work in this business again.