The Phoenix Coyotes are down a top line left wing with Ray Whitney signing with the Dallas Stars. Currently the Coyotes have Lauri Korpikoski, Raffi Torres and Paul Bissonnette under contract. No offense to any of these players, but if you add all of their points together they still do not equal the points that Whitney had last season. General Manager Don Maloney has a big task ahead of him, he needs to find a new left winger, and since the Coyotes have over 14 million to spare before they reach the cap floor its possible they will find a new player through free agency.
Last season Ray Whitney had 77 points in the regular season, which lead the Coyotes and was 12th in the NHL. Replacing that is going to be no easy task, in fact there isn't anyone who had numbers like that last season. In order to be a suitable replacement for Whitney a player is going to have be a big point scorer, to establish a baseline let's say at least 40, and had at least 25 assists. Whitney was also on the power play often so his replacement should be able to put up some power play numbers too.
Below are the free agent left wingers who fit this description:
#9 / Left Wing / New Jersey Devils
Jul 28, 1984
|2011 - Zach Parise||31||38||69||-5||32|
He would be a good replacement for Whitney but its probably not going to happen. Zach Parise has pretty much every team in the league vying for him and the Coyotes are probably not going to be able to beat their offers. We can all dream though right.
#26 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins
Jul 06, 1974
|2011 - Steve Sullivan||17||31||48||-3||20|
Steve Sullivan had a decent last season, but he is getting older and his numbers seem to be declining with age. He played six seasons with the Nashville Predators, who seem to play a similar style to the Coyotes so he may fit in with the system, but I'm not sure that he is the best person because of his age.
It may be best for the Coyotes to go after a young player. Below are the restricted free agents who may fit the bill:
#9 / Center / Winnipeg Jets
Aug 02, 1991
|2011 - Evander Kane||30||27||57||11||53|
Evander Kane may be my favorite in terms of players the Coyotes should be pursing. In terms of points he has great numbers, although he doesn't have Whitney's skill at assists. He is young, which means he will hopefully be putting up numbers like these for a while and hopefully getting better. Rumors are that he is unhappy in Winnipeg and he would probably be interested in moving to a city where he isn't under the microscope.
#74 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators
Mar 20, 1987
|2011 - Sergei Kostitsyn||17||26||43||8||34|
To be honest I am not sure that Sergei Kostitsyn would be the replacement we need for Whitney. His numbers are good but I'm not sure they are high enough. He would probably fit pretty well into the Tippett system so he does deserve some consideration.
#14 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars
Jul 18, 1989
|2011 - Jamie Benn||26||37||63||15||55|
Jamie Benn has great numbers, high assists, high points, the best plus/minus of the 5 players that fit the bill. It would be nice to get a player from Dallas after they took Whitney but I'm not sure that Dallas is going to let him go that easily. According to Defending Big D, Dallas sent him a qualify offer, and it is likely to be a big number, although there isn't much news how that is going
Of course picking up a free agent isn't the only option for GMDM, he could always trade for a player. Personally I think that he should pick a younger player who will be able to stay with the team for a long time. Benn or Kane may be the best choices for next season but expect both players to be receiving heavy offers so they are probably going to be coming with a price and their teams probably aren't going to want to let them go.