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Jeff Halpern: An unexpected stop-gap on the fourth line

With only 14 days left until preseason begins, we explore the man who wore No. 14 during his season with the Coyotes.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

With the departure of Boyd Gordon to the Edmonton Oilers before the 2013-14 season, the Arizona Coyotes had a void they needed to fill. They filled that void two weeks into the season by signing Jeff Halpern, who was playing in the Finnish Elite League for HC TPS, to be a fourth line center and faceoff expert.

Halpern has had quite the career before signing with the Coyotes. He went undrafted, but played college hockey for Princeton University. After college he was signed by the Washington Capitals, becoming the first member of the team to be from the D.C. area. Before signing with the Coyotes, Halpern had spent 13 years in the NHL playing for the Capitals, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, and Montreal Canadiens, as well as being captain of the United States national team at the 2008 World Championships and a representative of the United States during international tournaments in 2000, 2001, 2004 (both the World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey) and 2005.

The Coyotes signed Halpern to a one-year, two-way deal on Oct. 12, 2013, the day after their fifth game of the season, a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Yotes had won two games in a row but were 3-2 after suffering a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks and a 6-1 loss to the New York Islanders that showed the team had some weaknesses. The Desert Dogs decided to address these weaknesses with more veterans hoping it would limit their defensive lapses.

Halpern was brought in to anchor the fourth line and win faceoffs, and he was pretty effective all things considered.  He finished the season with five goals and seven assists, which for a fourth liner is not bad, and had a 52.7 faceoff win percentage. He did not completely fill the void left by Gordon, but he had a role and he filled it well, while bringing some veteran experience to the dressing room.

With the Coyotes signing Joe Vitale over the summer, it is highly unlikely Halpern will ever suit up in a Coyotes jersey again, but he hopes to stay in NHL. There are reports that he has been skating with Capitals players in Washington and he is willing to accept less money for a contract.  Considering it took him a few games into the season to get signed last season, do not count him out just yet.