For the first time in what feels like forever, covering the now Arizona Coyotes in the offseason has not involved any referendums, lease agreements, city council meetings or the Goldwater Institute. Instead the attention of Coyotes fans focused on the name change, the town hall meeting, the trade for Sam Gagner and less fun events like the Mike Ribeiro buyout.
The offseason has been full of hockey, and thankfully only hockey, related events, so here are a few tidbits and notes from the offseason so far.
- The biggest move of the offseason came on June 29 when Arizona acquired Gagner and B.J. Crombeen from Tampa Bay in exchange for a small bag of pucks (6th round pick). The Lightning were even kind enough to pick up part of the tab, who says chivalry is dead?
- On Gagner: "He's obviously a skill player," Tippett said. "He had a tough year last year, tough couple of years, we're hoping a change of scenery is going to do him good."
- The soon-to-be 25-year-old center put up 24 goals and 75 points in 115 games over the past two seasons, but was an atrocious possession player. However, he was a good possession player on a bad possession team the two seasons prior. Before the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, Gagner put up at least 41 points in every year since his rookie season as an 18-year-old in 2007-08. If he is able to shake off some of the bad habits he developed over the last two years, there is no reason that Gagner cannot be a solid second line center (or wing if the Yotes choose to go that route).
- On the other forward in the trade: "Crombeen is a working guy, goes up and down his wing, sneaky tough, willing to stand up for his temmates. He's a guy that's just a hard-nosed player that you get into the bottom end of your lineup and he's going to do a good job," Tippett said.
- Crombeen is a typical fourth line grinder that will see time in that role on the right wing to start the season. With one year left on his deal and a large group of younger prospects waiting just behind him, keeping that job all season will be difficult.
- Arizona signed five players in free agency: Two from other teams, Joe Vitale and Devan Dubnyk, as well as re-signing three players of their own, David Moss, Brandon McMillan and Jordan Szwarz.
- On the new fourth line center: "Vitale to me is right out of the mold of a Boyd Gordon or a Jeff Halpern, one of those players on your team that do a lot of the dirty work, a lot of the grit, faceoffs, things like that...he's willing to do night in and night out," Tippett said.
- Like Gagner, Vitale has really struggled over the past two seasons, after a promising debut in Pittsburgh in 2011-12. Vitale wins a ton of faceoffs but is a poor possession player, even for a fourth liner. He was brought in to help kill penalties, but never played more than 12.4 percent of Pittsburgh's short-handed time over the course of any given season. Vitale will step into the role of bottom line center, although it is a bit peculiar that the Coyotes would lock up a fourth liner to a three-year deal worth more than $1 million per.
- On Dubnyk: "Devan is a good guy, he's a good teammate, obviously a real big goaltender and very motivated, looking to jump back in and I like our chances with him," Tippett said.
- In the three seasons prior to last year, Dubnyk looked like a fringe NHL starter making strides to becoming a bonafide NHL regular. Last season, everything fell apart. He had an .891 save percentage in 34 games between two different teams. Goalie coach Sean Burke has had success in the past with big goaltenders and the Coyotes hope Burke can work his magic again on the 6' 5" free agent addition.
- In an unrelated note, today is the five-year anniversary of another trade with Tampa Bay, that one brought back Radim Vrbata in exchange for Todd Fedoruk and David Hale.