When a team misses the playoffs, like the Phoenix Coyotes did in 2013-14, it takes a pretty good offseason to right the ship. Normally, this could result in a fire sale with all the best assets of the team shipped away for younger talent, but something tells me the Coyotes will stick to this core.
I think they’re right to do that, meaning the pressure is on to hit it big on the free agency period. Luckily, the Coyotes are in a position to address their needs without expending a lot of resources.
Here’s a look at the three biggest needs for the Coyotes in free agency.
With the departure of Radim Vrbata, winger is a position the Coyotes absolutely must address. While Max Domi was close last season, it’d be better for all parties involved if he wasn’t rushed into action as Plan A. Don’t get me wrong — if he’s ready, and wins the job out of camp, there’s no use in delaying the inevitable. He was drafted to be the winger of future after all.
So there are two ways to go about this because of the market and the budget of the Coyotes. They are in a position to offer a long-term deal in the realm of $4.5 million per year to find a guy who can lock down the position for a couple years, or find a veteran to sign a one or two year deal for, say, $3 million to facilitate Domi’s transition. The former would be a guy like Radim Vrbata or Milan Michalek, whereas the latter is the Ray Whitney profile.
Potential fits: Radim Vrbata, Milan Michalek, Ray Whitney
It’s not a “sexy” need, but the Coyotes got their money’s worth in backup goaltender Thomas Greiss. After going 10-8-5 with a 2.29 goals against average in 2013-14 — a good portion of which came after Mike Smith went down to injury – it’s not surprise that the German netminder is looking for a potential starting gig. That’s something that Phoenix can’t offer him, so his spot will need to filled.
If not Greiss, guys like Al Montoya or Jean-Sebastien Giguere promise to be good and affordable backups.
Potential fits: Thomas Greiss, Al Montoya
4th line forward
Maybe even less glamorous than the backup goaltender, fourth liners are key pieces, and the best teams feed off their fourth liners. Whether it’s eating minutes, giving the front-lines some rest, or bringing some grit, the best teams are built four deep.
For the Coyotes, Paul Bissonette will need to be replaced. An unrestricted free agent, his name is definitely in the mix, but keep an eye out for guys like Joe Vitale to possibly replace the fan favorite.
Potential fits: Paul Bissonette, Joe Vitale