Mike Smith has hit a particularly rough patch. He has been pulled mid-game twice in his past three starts. He's allowed 32 goals this year, second most in the league to only Sergei Bobrovsky. His season save percentage is threatening to sink below .900 this year. And after he went 14-42-5 last season with a 3.16 GAA and a .904 save percentage, he has not been good for a while now.
Which leads inevitably to an important question: is it time for the Arizona Coyotes to move on from Smith?
Moving Mike Smith via trade seems highly unlikely, at best. Apart from his numbers being extremely bad, Smith has a no-movement clause this season and a no-trade clause through 2018-19. Basically, the only way Mike Smith gets dealt is with his say-so.
Additionally, Smith's contract is both long-term and expensive; he will count for $5.67 million against the salary cap through 2018-19. Additionally, he will make $24 million in actual salary over the remaining four seasons of his deal. So Smith has a pricey contract no matter which metric you choose to look at.
That leaves one option really: a buy-out. Here's what it would cost to buy out Smith:
That's no small amount of money to pay a player to not play for you. It's made even worse by the fact that the Coyotes are doing exactly that with Mike Ribeiro through 2019-20. If the Coyotes did buy out Mike Smith, they would have paid $27.64 million in actual salary on just two buyouts.
Understandably, those numbers leave Coyotes fans sharply divided on whether or not buying out Mike Smith is really worth it.
Alright #Coyotes fans, is it worth buying out Smith's contract if it means paying him $16M for 8 years to not play?— Brendan Porter (@brendanporter) November 8, 2015
The biggest problem with Smith's situation is that it is far harder for the Coyotes to minimize the effects of Smith's struggles on the team's performance. Players like Mike Richards, Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, and Stephen Weiss could be given severely reduced minutes to allow younger, more productive players like Tyler Toffoli, Derek Stepan, and Tomas Tatar more time to play.
Arizona can't really do that at the goaltender position, where they only carry two netminders. They could give Anders Lindback more minutes, which would be a temporary solution. But that would still require Smith to play, and more importantly, take up a roster spot in place of someone like Louis Domingue or some other goaltender prospect.
That's what makes Smith's position so frustrating. The Coyotes can either wait for him to improve, wait until his NMC lapses and demote him, or buy him out. So far, the Coyotes seem to be locked in to option #1.
But how long can they afford to wait?
- Let's also talk about the Arizona Coyotes' latest hiring of Mitchell Ziets, an "arena consultant".
- Ziets would certainly be the kind of person IceArizona would hire to get the ball rolling on finding a new home in the Valley, but one of Ziets' major NHL accomplishments was reworking a deal with Broward County and the Florida Panthers. The Panthers play in a building owned by the county.
- Would Ziets be able to salvage anything resembling a deal with the City of Glendale? I doubt it, especially now that Coyotes supporter Gary Sherwood was recalled from the City Council last week. But stranger things have happened before I guess.
- One way that Ziets might still help the Coyotes in Glendale is that he may be able to hammer out an arrangement with whomever Glendale hires to manage the arena that gives the Coyotes some breathing room while they look for a new home. A short-term agreement to play in Gila River Arena is all but a necessity at this point.
- It is important to point out that the Coyotes would not be leaving a publicly funded arena regardless of which of the three options they chose that Craig Morgan reported were possibilities. It's a question of which local government the Coyotes would be best off working with: Phoenix, Tempe, or the Salt River Community.
- Connor McDavid's injury has definitely opened the door for Max Domi to win the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
- Prior to his injury, McDavid was on a .92 points per game pace (12 points in 13 games). Domi is at .85 points per game (11 points in 13 games).
- Other competitors to Domi likely include Jack Eichel (7 points in 14 games), Dylan Larkin (10 points in 14 games), Oscar Lindberg (11 points in 14 games), and Artemi Panarin (15 points in 15 games).
- Panarin probably should get more attention than he currently is right now, but the fact that he plays on a loaded Chicago Blackhawks team is probably hindering his chances. That and the fact that he had a significant amount of KHL experience before coming to North America.
- Having Martin Hanzal long-term this season gives Domi the best chance to win the Calder, as Hanzal's remarkable assist totals show. Hopefully Hanzal doesn't miss more time this year, because he and Domi have been a ton of fun to watch.