The Phoenix Coyotes are coming off the most successful season in franchise history. They reached the Western Conference Finals and fell short, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in 5 games. The Coyotes have some major decisions to make as they enter the off-season with who they will try to bring in to bolster key spots throughout the lineup. General Manager Don Maloney technically has a lot of money to work with ($35.4 million under the cap), but with a new ownership group set to take over, Maloney might not have that much to spend.
That eliminates many of the top free agents from this list. I think every team would like to have a Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators) or a Alexander Semin (Washington Capitals). These guys would break the bank though and that is why these types of players are not on this list.
This column will explore the top 5 unrestricted free agents that I think the Coyotes need to pursue that make sense financially and inside the team concept that Dave Tippett has worked so hard to build over the last couple of seasons. I am looking for a point scoring, defensively cognizant, hard-working and relatively inexpensive group of players. Many of these guys are under the radar, but I think would be great fits.
Player- Position- Age- Height, Weight- 2011-12 Team- 2011-12 salary
1. P A Parenteau- Right Wing- 29 yrs. old- 6’0, 198 lbs.-New York Islanders- $1.25 million
Has scored 50+ points each season for the past 2 season. He finished with 67 points this year (18G-49A) which would have ranked him 2nd on the Coyotes (4th in goals, 2nd in assists). The Coyotes only really have 2 true right wings on their roster in Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata and Doan is a free agent. He had 19 points on the power play, which would have ranked him 2nd overall on the Coyotes last season. He was a -8 overall and had 80+ penalty minutes which Tippett wouldn’t like, but Doan was a -8 last season and he had a solid overall season. If he scored 60+ points for the Coyotes, I think they would overlook his +/- if it were similar to his number from this year.
If the Coyotes can sign him for $3-4 million, he would be a solid addition and bring some much needed offense to the Desert Dogs.
2. Jiri Hudler- Left Wing- 28 yrs. old- 5’9, 178 lbs.- Detroit Red Wings- $3 million
The shifty Czech winger is a skilled puck-handler, can find the net and his tough to knock off the puck because of his low center of gravity. He scored 50 points (25G-25A) for the Wings last season and could slot into a 2nd or 3rd line and give it some added scoring punch. He was a +10 last season and did score 10 points on the power play although he didn’t see much time on the vaunted Red Wings power play.
A salary close to what he made this year would be acceptable (up to $3.5 million) and he would fit right in with the Coyotes tough, gritty style of play.
3. Chris Kelly- Center- 31 yrs. old- 6’0, 198 lbs.- Boston Bruins- $2 million
Grizzled veteran and solid two-way player, Kelly would add leadership and a consistent point producer to this lineup. Kelly scored 39 points last year (20G-19A), played in every conceivable situation and finished an amazing +33 for the season. Kelly has Dave Tippett type-of-player written all over him.
If the Coyotes can give him a raise ($3 million range) and lure him from Boston to Phoenix, they would not regret it. Adding another character guy to the locker room to help out Doan and the other vets would be welcome heading into next season.
4. Jason Garrison- Defenseman- 27 yrs. old- 6’2, 220 lbs.- Florida Panthers- $700,000
A very underrated defenseman, Garrison is an all-around, experienced player who would be a bargain in this market. He scored 33 points (16G-17A) last year including 9 goals on the power play with his hard, heavy shot from the point. He also finished with a +6 rating, showing that he is defensively responsible.
If the Coyotes can get him for between $1.5-2.5 million, that would be a great signing and help bolster the defense corp that will potentially be missing Rozsival and Aucoin (UFA’s).
5. Joey Crabb- Right Wing- 29 yrs. old- 6’1, 190 lbs.- Toronto Maple Leafs- $750,000
Crabb is a rough and tumble player who had modest stats last season, but played many roles for the Maple Leafs. He scored 26 points (11G-15A), but he was a consistent grinder on the 3rd and 4th lines and he also played a very important role on the penalty kill for the Leafs. He seemed to have a knack for scoring big goals (4 GWG) and if the Coyotes were to sign him, he could slot into the role that Brule or Pouliot played this past season.
The Coyotes should offer him around a $1 million and use him in a variety of ways to help the team reach that next level.
If the Coyotes can round up some of these guys in the FA market, it would go a long way towards making that next step forward for a franchise that had unbelievable success this season. The ‘Yotes need to continue to build on last season and not regress and the way to do that these days is by making shrewd moves in free agency.
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.