While the Phoenix Coyotes may not have many bright and flashy stars on the ice, they have a superstar in the front office. Thankfully for Coyotes fans everywhere, Don Maloney will remain part of the organization for several more years to come. The team announced in a press release this afternoon that GMDM has agreed to a "long-term contract extension", though true to form, the details of the agreement were not disclosed.
Maloney has been the franchise's general manager since 2007, and since taking the reins of the club from Mike Barnett, has made a number of moves to turn the Phoenix Coyotes from a perennial doormat to a Western Conference Finalist a year ago. He was responsible for drafting players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker and Michael Stone. He's also developed a reputation for fleecing other NHL GMs with terrific trades; Maloney orchestrated the re-acquisition of Derek Morris, who has consistently received top-pair minutes with Keith Yandle, from Boston in exchange for a 4th round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft. He also acquired Lee Stempniak for perennial minor leaguer Matt Jones and a couple of picks. Stempniak would go on to score 14 goals in 18 games to power Phoenix to its first playoff berth in 8 years.
While retaining Maloney provides some clarity to the Coyotes' on-ice future, its off-ice future remains fluid. In a statement included in the press release, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reiterated the League's commitment to Glendale and Arizona, and GMDM's willingness to remain with the organization is a likely indicator that a final resolution to the ongoing saga that is the Coyotes' ownership situation is near.
Regardless of the outcome with ownership, Don Maloney has several challenges that he will have to deal with almost immediately. Head coach Dave Tippett remains unsigned; and while Colorado's coaching vacancy has closed with the hiring of Patrick Roy, Vancouver and Dallas both could benefit from Tippett's attention to detail and responsible system. Maloney will also need to address the Coyotes' goaltending situation, as Mike Smith, Jason LaBarbera, and Chad Johnson are all set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Shutdown defensive forward Boyd Gordon and youngsters Boedker and Lauri Korpikoski are also in need of contracts. And as always, GMDM will be tasked with scouring the free agent pool looking for underrated talent that can provide the consistent scoring punch this team desperately needs.
The next few months in the Coyotes' front office will be quite hectic, but fans can be reassured that the calm, confident, and uncannily brilliant Don Maloney will find a way to steer Phoenix toward the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup.