With everyone focused on the courtroom drama lately, most if not all have lost sight of the fact that however this thing goes the team is going to have to deal with Free Agency at some point this summer. This is one reason that moving up that relocation hearing is good for both sides. That way no matter what happens the players know where they're going to play. (Hint: The location has several species of native cactus and is not in Nevada) Once that gets straight the team should have a much simpler time getting people to sign on for the coming year. There is after all a cap floor that the team has to reach somehow and they're not all that close without getting some added bodies or resigning current players. Here's a look at the players that will be both restricted and unrestricted come July along with their salaries for this past season.
|Unrestricted Free Agents|
|Name||Pos.||Last Yr. $|
|Restricted Free Agents|
There are a few names on there that we pretty much know won't be back next year. Brian McGrattan is a definite no as he had some issues during the season and the team can't afford a guy who only gets 3 minutes of ice time when he's healthy. Dmitri Kalinin could be back for another season, but isn't worth nearly the 2.1 million dollar price tag that the Rangers gave him so it all depends on what price he's looking for. Goertzen, Lannon and Hoggan were all decent down in the AHL, but didn't contribute a whole lot for the big team. Lannon is a decent D prospect that could see some time and Goertzen showed some fire when he came up for a few games this past season. Hoggan is likely gone though as he just didn't have enough to bring to the table. The two most interesting cases are Ken Klee and Steve Reinprecht. Klee has played well in the lower pairings and brought a good defensive role model for the younger guys in the room, especially Keith Yandle. With Derek Morris gone that's something that the team really is going to be lacking in the room. is how many games will he be able to play? Even this past year he was in and out of the lineup as he is now 38 years old. Is he worth the roster spot for the experience if he can be had on the cheap? I think they'll have to at least give it a shot as there aren't a lot of defensive options at the moment. Rhino has a lot of the same going for him. While not as old as Klee, he certainly a veteran voice in a room full of young guys. There are nights where he is clearly the most aggressive guy on the ice for the Yotes, and others where you don't even see him. Can the Yotes afford to pay him 2 million a season again? and is he going to want to stick around? He's probably the most in the air at the moment, but I have to imagine that he would have been traded at the deadline if he was looking to get out of here.
As for the restricted guys it's going to simply come down to price. There are plenty of guys on that list that I want to see back in a Coyotes jersey. Topping the list is certainly Scottie Upshall. If they gave up fan favorite Daniel Carcillo and then didn't resign Upshall that would just be a joke. Upshall can agitate in smaller ways and then will score on you once you're rilled up. It just a question of how much we'd have to give him and who else is interested. After that Keith Yandle is probably the next most important. We're plenty thin on D and can't afford any big names over the summer, so we'll have to resign Yandle. He grew a bunch over the course of the season, geting more responsible with the puck and trying to do a little less with it. Petr Prucha is another solid player that Played well after the trade with New York. He's on;y coming back if he stays around last years 1.6 mil price tag though. Lisin fits into that same pricing mold in that while there's a ton of offensive potential there there's also a complete lack of defensive thinking. If they can keep him at a reasonable price they will and should, but if not then he's shipping out as well. That's if he doesn't get some offer from the KHL. Dawes, Murray, Nikulin and Lindstrom could get some sort of deal, but would likely be seeing time in the minors if they sign here. Management didn't seem all that impressed with Nigel Dawes for some reason even though he was a really hard worker in the practices I saw. Finally Josh Tjordman should get resigned, but he's fallen on the depth chart behind Al Montoya after they both saw time at the end of the season so he won't get a big deal.
What it boils down to is that the Coyotes are going to have to spend money somewhere for the coming season. They aren't going to be bringing in anyone big with the mess they're in now until the ownership gets right and the location is known for certain (Though it will be in Phoenix.) When you add up the cost of what they're committed to next season it ends up at about 31.351 Million according to NHLNumbers.com. If we leave the salary floor where it is for now (since if it goes up it wouldn't be by all that much, and some expect it to fall a bit) it would be at 40.7 million dallars. That leaves the Coyotes with about a 9 million dollar gap to fill in order to get there. It's possible they could get some interest from the lower level FAs, but it makes the most sense at the moment to sign who they've got to a moderate increase and fill gaps where necessary with some semi-compitent players.
More coming on who the Coyotes can target in Free Agency later.