The moves that the Dallas Stars have made during free agency has raised a few eye brows around the league. In a sport that is dominated by speed and with the age of players who are making their NHL debut becoming younger and younger, critics ask themselves, are the risks in signing a player that is over the age of 35 worth it? The Phoenix Coyotes, throughout the franchise's time in the Valley, have taken on risks on players 35 and older. Their results have not surprisingly been mixed. Let's take a look back at the past.
Mike Gartner - 1996 - 36 years old
Mike Gartner came to the desert in 1996 via trade with Toronto. Upset that Toronto broke promises that were made to him, Gartner made sure to show them they made a big mistake. It only took the second game in franchise history for Mike Gartner to heat up. Leaving his mark in the Coyotes' history, Gartner not only scored the first goal of the Coyotes franchise, but also netted the first hat trick all in the same night against the Boston Bruins. A scoring surprise to no one, Mike Gartner was a key addition to a team that featured greats, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick and Rick Tocchet. In his final season in the NHL, Gartner fought injuries but still managed 12 goals and 15 assists, finishing with 44 goals and and 46 assists in 142 games as a Phoenix Coyote.
Greg Adams - 1998 - 35 years old
35 year old vet Greg Adams was brought on by then Coyotes General Manager, Bobby Smith to bulk up the Coyotes' offense. In two seasons Adams notched 38 goals and 51 assists in 144 games becoming a key player on the Coyotes' second line. Greg Adams only played two seasons as a Desert Dog but he was no stranger to Arizona. Adams played college hockey at Northern Arizona University where he lead the NCAA in scoring his sophomore year before being signed by the New Jersey Devils in 1984.
Claude Lemieux - 2002 - 37 years old
After coming off his forth Stanley Cup win with the New Jersey Devils, Lemieux was signed in hopes working his magic as he did in Montreal, New Jersey, and in Colorado. The heavy duty right winger clocked in 32 goals and 43 assists in 164 games before being traded to the Dallas Stars in 2003. Retiring after being traded, Lemieux entered back into Arizona hockey as the president of the Phoenix RoadRunners three years before coming out of retirement and signing with division rivals, the San Jose Sharks.
Kelly Buchberger - 2002 - 36 years old
Jumping at the chance to work with former Edmonton Oilers teammate, Wayne Gretzky, Kelly Buchberger traded in the California sun for the Arizona desert in 2002. Only with the Coyotes for one season, Kelly Buchberger brought to the locker room two past Stanley Cup runs experience. Buchberger only light the lamp 3 times while adding 9 assists before wrapping up his career in Pittsburgh with the Penguins.
Paul Ranheim - 2002 - 35 years old
Paul Ranheim was traded to the Coyotes via The Philadelphia Flyers to help the penalty kill as well as bring speed to the Coyotes' offense. In 40 games, the 35 year old left winger found himself with only 3 goals and 4 assists. The time in Phoenix marked the end of his NHL career as he hung up his skates at the conclusion of his 40 game season in Phoenix, finding retirement in Tucson.
Brett Hull - 2004 - 41 years old
Opting for a bigger and longer contract than what two former teams, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues were offering, forward Brett Hull arrived in the desert in 2004. After the cancellation of the '04-'05 season, many fans were excited to see 'Golden Brett' go to work with forwards Shane Doan and Ladislav Nagy, unfortunately Brett Hull retired after only 5 games with the Coyotes. In a move that created a bit of controversy, Hull stated that the year long lock out was the reason behind his slow start and ultimately physical disadvantage as he was unable to compete at the level he expected himself to. Although the 'Hull-era' was short-lived, in the time the Hall of Famer called the Valley of the Sun his home, Hull only recorded 1 assist.
Curtis Joseph - 2005 - 38 years old
Coming off the record breaking season they had with goaltender, Brian Boucher, the Coyotes looked to lock up Boucher come free agency but because of hesitation on Boucher's end the Coyotes were forced to look elsewhere. The search came up then 38 year old goalie, Curtis Joseph. After inking the goaltender known as 'CuJo,' Boucher signed the contract given to him by the team. Finding themselves in a unique situation with two star goaltenders fighting for the No.1 position. In what was originally a 1 year contract, both Joseph and the Coyotes liked what they saw and agreed to another year. In two two years the 39 year old saw 115 games while posting 8 shutouts.
Yanic Perreault - 2006 - 35 years old
In a signing that looked to help bulk up the front, the Coyotes signed center, Yanic Perreault. Known as a face-off specialist, the 35 year old free agent scored 19 goals and 14 assists in 49 games. Although Perreault's time in Arizona only lasted a season, it wasn't the only time Yanic had played in the desert. Under contract with the Los Angeles Kings, Perreault was sent down to their minor league team, the Phoenix Roadrunners.
Jeremy Roenick - 2006 - 36 years old
After lending his hand in establishing pro hockey in the desert in 1996, JR left for the Philadelphia Flyers. And after a short stint in LA, the two time Olympian found himself in Arizona again in 2006. Signing on to add the intensity that only Roenick is known to bring, the 36 year old forward netted 11 goals and 17 assists.
Ken Klee - 2008 - 37 years old
Defenseman Ken Klee was picked up off of re-entry waivers from the Anaheim Ducks. Klee, brought 14 years of NHL experience to the Coyotes' blueline. In the 68 games Klee saw as a Coyote he recorded only 1 goal and 10 assists.
Robert Lang - 2009 - 39 years old
A veteran goal scorer, Robert Lang came on to add depth to the special teams. Lang like Perreault and Adams spent time in Arizona before becoming a Coyote as Lang played 82 games as a member of the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners. Not being given big minutes, Lang and later addition, Mathieu Schneider were said to play "smart minutes," according to coach Dave Tippett. In a memorable Game 6 against their former team, the duo led the way in the 5-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings. In season long stint in Glendale, he registered 9 goals and 20 assists to round out his time as a Coyote
Mathieu Schneider - 2009 - 40 years old
Once the oldest player in the NHL at age 40, former Coyotes' defenseman, Mathieu Schneider was brought in at trade deadline in 2010. Schneider, wanting to play a bigger role, found a team looking for additional veteran presence on and off the ice to help move things forward in the chase for the Cup. In Schneider's short-lived run as a Coyote, he finished with 1 goal and 4 assists.
Adrian Aucoin - 2009 - 36 years old
Adrian Aucoin held many titles in his 18 years as an NHL defenseman, the Babe Pratt Trophy in 1999, the hardest shot in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game (102.2 mph), as well as alternate captain on both New York Islanders and the Phoenix Coyotes as well as captain for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005, but his most note-worthy title while in the desert was the Closer. In 5 straight shootout appearances, Aucoin scored the game winning goal in each outing. But aside from the shootouts, the Closer was an extremely talented stay at home defenseman. A leader on blueline, his work with then rookie Oliver Ekman-Larsson is now starting to show as Ekman-Larsson saw a breakout season this past season. Such leadership is something that will come in handy in Columbus as its predicted that Adrian Aucoin will share ice time with the Blue Jackets' first round draft pick, Ryan Murray. In his time in the desert,
Ray Whitney - 2010 - 38 years old
The Wizard as Coyotes fans came to know him as was written off by many critics and told it was only a matter of time before his body and play caught up with his age...only that day hasn't come. After winning a Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Whitney stayed for the next 3 seasons before signing with Phoenix at the age of 38. Originally bought in to help with a struggling power play, the Wizard's impact shined elsewhere. Placed on the second line Whitney pushed linemate, Radim Vrbata to his highest goal scoring season, only 5 goals shy of the 40 goal marker. Not to be out done by his teammate 8 years his junior, Whitney thrived in his two seasons as a Coyote, notching 41 goals and 93 assists while becoming the 79th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 regular season point marker.