Good afternoon, Coyotes Fans, Welcome to the latest volume of the roundtable. Today the FFH staff discuss what free agents the team should sign, which team is the biggest surprise in the NHL so far, and what, if anything, needs to be done about the scrums happening after legal hits. Without further ado, let's get down to business.
With Matthew Hulsizer set to buy the team and saying that he is committed to putting a winner on the ice, which current Coyote eligible for free agency at the end of the season are you most anxious to see locked up to a new contract?
Travis: That'd be Bryz. That should be the unanimous choice. He's been a rock in net that the Coyotes hadn't had since Nikolai Khabibulin and would be difficult to replace at best.
Carl: Bryz. Given the team's reliance on goaltending, re-signing him is the first, second, and third priority.
Jordan: Well, the easy answer to that is Bryz, and it's a good one. He's been a key reason for our success over the past year and a half and it would definitely hurt to lose him. That being said, I'm generally opposed to paying goalies tons and tons of money and if someone wants to offer Bryz $6M+ per year for 5-6 years, then I just wouldn't be comfortable making that investment (particularly with a guy like Tomas Vokoun becoming a free agent in this offseason as well). There are some interesting Coyotes that will be UFAs next year including Vernon Fiddler and Scottie Upshall, and I'd definitely like to see both of those guys in Coyotes uniforms for many more years.
Along those same lines, which potential free agent would you like the Coyotes to pursue next summer?
Travis: Alex Semin would be a great pickup but his price tag is going to be a big one. Can't argue with his point production over the past few seasons, it's all a matter of how much the Coyotes realistically have to spend. I'd pick a big name on defense, but this summer's UFA crop on the blueline is weak at best to the point that it might actually be worth signing Jovo again at a cheaper price. That's how bad the D crop is. Maybe Ian White just for the mustachulence.
Carl: The UFA market this coming summer isn't full of elite talent with the exception of Tomas Vokoun and Alex Semin. Semin would be a great fit for the Desert Dogs. He would give the team the scoring threat they lack. In addition, his defensive skills are underrated. Yes, he's mercurial and streaky player at times, but under Tippet's tutelage I think he's be a huge plus for the team. If the Caps either re-sign Semin, or there is a bidding war for his services that the Coyotes can't afford, I'd rather GMDM look at a trade than the FA agent market.
Jordan: I'd love to see the Coyotes be in a position to make a push for a guy like Alexander Semin if he makes it to free agency, but I imagine the Caps will lock him up before then. There are some really intriguing mid-level, grinder wingers out there that would fit in nicely as well, with a Brooks Laich or Jussi Jokinen becoming UFAs this year. Also, a guy like Nikolai Zherdev who is having a pretty nice bounce back year in Philadelphia and may price himself out of that market given their cap situation.
What team in the NHL has surprised you most this season by playing better than you expected so far?
Travis: The Thrashers. They're really competing in the Southeast and are in the playoff hunt. They're sure a market that could use a good run and with the Caps eating it as of late they've been given an opening to solidify their position.
Carl: The Stars. At this point in the season I fully expected the Kings to be in first place in the decision. The Stars rebuild has gone much faster than I expected. I wasn't expecting huge improvement until next season. Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson's play hasn't been a surprise, but James Neal and Brenden Morrow are playing better than I anticipated. Trevor Daley has been having a great year on the blueline as well. Raycroft's play in net has been much better than one would expect given his career numbers.
Jordan: I've been surprised by how well Dallas is playing. At 10 games over .500, it's hard to just say they are playing above their heads still at this point. They are only a +5 goal differential, though, so this might even out as the year moves along. For the 'Yotes' sake, I hope so. The Thrashers in the east had a great offseason plucking pieces from the Blackhawk Stanley Cup team and supplementing guys they got in the Kovalchuk deal and they are turning that into a very competitive bunch, particularly in light of the Caps' recent struggles. I think those would be my top 2 teams that I am most surprised by so far.
This past week P.K. Subban laid a clean open ice hit on Todd Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Immediately after the hit, several Boston Bruins players went after Subban. What do you feel can be done to stop the fights occurring after legal hits that seem to have become a regular commonplace in the league in recent years?
Travis: I honestly don't have a problem with post hit fights. Clean or not, you have to send a message to the hitter's team that you're not going just let your guys get hit. Are there times where I'd rather the hitting just got more intense all around to make the other team pay instead? Sure. But in the heat of things when players see teammates go down, it doesn't much matter if it's clean or not you stick up for your guy. That being said, I don't like the line brawl type of thing. If you're going to layout big hits you have to expect that there will be payback, it should just be of the one-on-one variety instead of a gang tackle of the guy.
Carl: Two things. First, the league office needs to make this issue a point of emphasis to the officials and tell them to start calling the instigator penalty. Once a couple of guys get called for the instigator I suspect this issue will die down, but not completely go away. Second, coaches on every level need to explain to their players that just because a guy hits your guy doesn't mean you go and fight them. If a guy is lighting your team up in the hitting department than be physical right back with him, but don't challenge him to a fight. These ludicrous incidents kill the flow of games and that fact more than anything else will probably eventually cause the league office to act.
Jordan: Probably nothing, unfortunately. There is definitely some perception that those big hits are dirty, even when the contact turns out to be clean and the fights start. Honestly, if you are looking to make that big knock out type hit, even if it's clean, you probably should be answering the call, because it's not always the dirty hits that are going to knock a player out long term. And there's nothing wrong with that, in my opinion - partly because I enjoy a decent scrap. Now when it's just brash overreaction to a big hit, then the refs need to be more willing to then assess the instigator penalty and truly penalize the team - it's a penalty already on the books and just needs to be better enforced, although I still would rather see it not on the books at all.