It was just two weeks into the season when Jeff Halpern found himself headed back to the United States from Finland where he had spent the beginning of the 2013-14 season playing for HC TPS in the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga). Halpern signed a one-year contract worth $600,000, that contract ends July 1.
During his 69 games with the Phoenix Coyotes, Halpern made a name for himself in the faceoff circle as a solid fourth-line center. However, his numbers may not quite merit a re-signing.
In those 69 games Halpern had just five goals and 12 points. He did manage to win 52.7 percent of his faceoffs, however, putting him in fourth place on the Phoenix Coyotes roster, ahead of Mike Ribeiro (43.3%) and Brandon McMillan (50%).
What the Coyotes need is a solid fourth line center. Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal and Ribeiro will most likely make up the top three centermen while Max Domi or McMillan (if he is re-signed) could fill the fourth line spots. However, coach Dave Tippett and general manager Don Maloney could elect to keep them in the juniors/minors rather than limit their minutes in the big show. This opens up an opportunity for a signing or some intra-roster movement.
One possible shift is dropping Ribeiro to the fourth line and keeping McMillan on either the second or third line. Another lies with fellow fourth-liner Kyle Chipchura. Chipchura has better numbers across the board and could easily fill the role of fourth-line center.
Our own Jaime Eisner gave one suggestion pointing out Florida Panthers' center Jesse Winchester as one option with stats that are almost equal to Chipchura's. Winchester would likely cost around the same as Halpern, while being eight years younger.
Is the money there to re-sign Halpern? Definitely. But, when compared to what is on the market, there are better options. With a hopefully friendly general manager now working for the Calgary Flames, the Desert Dogs could potentially make a play for restricted free agent Lance Bouma. Though he plays left wing for the Flames, he was drafted as a center and as a younger player, could bring a solid youth infusion to the Coyotes. Bouma would likely cost more than Winchester, so re-signing Halpern or McMillan for another year are options as well..
Halpern is undoubtedly a good player to have around the dressing room. He has a wealth of NHL experience as well playoff runs, but paying anything more than what he received last season would be too much when other options exist around the league. With that being said, we'd like to see your opinion in the comment section and the poll below.