Monday Morning Musings: Blown leads, back-ups and buyouts

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

A look back at an interesting week in Coyotes hockey with thoughts and observations from Managing Editor Jaime Eisner.

The Phoenix Coyotes played four games last week with relatively mixed results. Although they went 2-1-1, the two losses were the result of two blown third period leads.

However, the Coyotes played well enough to maintain a lead over the ninth place Dallas Stars, who will come into town for the final game of the season in 13 days.

March is just about over as the Coyotes enter the home stretch with seven games left in the regular season.

Before the calendar turns to April, here are a few tidbits and notes from the week that was in Coyotes hockey:

- Thomas Greiss has done a tremendous job stepping in for the injured Mike Smith. In his last three starts, Greiss won two and had a .927 save percentage.

- Greiss is a pending unrestricted free agent at season's end and may be difficult to re-sign. The 28-year-old signed with the Coyotes last offseason hoping for more playing time than he had backing up Antti Niemi in San Jose.

- Before Smith's injury, Greiss was apparently dissatisfied with the relatively few number of games he had played during the season, to the point where it reportedly stalled negotiations on a contract extension. He is currently tied with his career high for appearances in a single season with 19 games played.

- Speaking of Smith, the Coyotes expect him back before the end of the regular season. Phoenix may need him in the final week of the season to solidify its playoff hopes and if they do make it in, would probably like his first game back from injury not to be in Game 1. Smith was playing very well before he went down.

- In fact, both Phoenix goaltenders had a solid month of March, combining for a 9-5-1 record and a .921 save percentage.

- Mike Ribeiro has found his way into coach Dave Tippett's doghouse, sitting two of the last three games. His play has been quite poor as of late, as he is not providing the offensive push needed to mask his defensive deficiencies.

- Talk on social media has brought up the subject of the Coyotes possibly using a compliance buyout on Ribeiro. Since his contract was signed after Sept. 15, 2012, Ribeiro's contract is not eligible for a compliance buyout.

- The Yotes are unlikely to use a regular buyout on Ribeiro as they would be on the hook for $11.67 million dollars in salary spread over six years. They would also suffer from a $1.94M cap hit in 2014-15, a $1.44M cap hit in the following two seasons, and finally another $1.94M cap hit from 2017-18 until 2019-20.

- Derek Morris is another player in Tippett's doghouse for poor play lately. It will be harder for Morris to get back into the lineup since the Coyotes have a handful of young defensemen to take his spot and Morris is an unrestricted free agent in the offseason that Phoenix is unlikely to re-sign.

- For all the talk about the Coyotes blowing 2-0 leads, they are just 10-9-3 in games they have a 1-0 lead and don't extend their lead to two goals. So it goes to show that two goal leads are still better than one.

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