It's safe to say June wasn't the most friendly month to the Arizona Coyotes. The team had to deal with its well-documented legal strife between the City of Glendale, and yet more "reports" that Anthony LeBlanc and Co. are planning a relocation.
But for the Coyotes, it's a new month—and a new mindset.
General manager Don Maloney was fairly active early on as the NHL's annual free agent signing period got underway at 9:00 a.m. Arizona time. The Coyotes signed forwards Brad Richardson and Steve Downie, defenseman Zbynek Michalek and goaltender Anders Lindback within the first two hours of the signing period.
The move for Michalek was arguably the biggest of the day, as the Coyotes return its former defenseman to the tune of two years and a $3.2 million AAV (Annual Average Value).
This is the second time Michalek has returned to the Coyotes, leaving once before by free agency to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and once by trade last season to the St. Louis Blues. The Michalek signing, of course, came just one day after the Coyotes returned Boyd Gordon via trade with the Edmonton Oilers.
The Coyotes were in need of a right-shot defenseman, and Michalek certainly shores up that position for the Desert Dogs. After the acquisition of Nicklas Grossmann last week, it was unclear if the team would open its wallet for another right-shot defenseman. Not only did the Coyotes get it done, but they bring in a familiar face to boot.
Even with the departure today of John Moore, who signed with the New Jersey Devils, the Coyotes now boast an impressive defensive contingent.
So...pairings? OEL-Stone Dahlbeck-Michalek Gormley-Murphy Grossmann #Coyotes— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) July 1, 2015
Mix and match as you will, but Stone/Michalek/Murphy are all right handed shots, while OEL/Dahlbeck/Gormley/Grossmann are all lefties.— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) July 1, 2015
Another area of need for the team was backup goaltender, and the Coyotes picked up Lindback at a bargain for $875,000 for one season in Arizona. The former Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres net minder will likely battle with Louis Domingue for the Coyotes second-string gig.
Still, it was Richardson who received the biggest contract of the day, as the former Vancouver Canucks center yielded a three-year deal worth $6.25 million (2.08 AAV). Richardson has 62 goals and 87 assists over 509 NHL games between the Canucks, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings.
It's a bit puzzling why it took a three-year deal from the Coyotes brass to bring in a bottom six forward, but the team was in need of veteran forward depth, and the need was addressed.
The last of the team's signings thus far features a league leader in Downie. For the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, he was first in the NHL in penalty minutes.
However, the box rat also posted 14 goals and 14 assists in limited minutes, so it's clear Downie is a bit more than just a strict enforcer. And for $1.75 million in just one season, the Coyotes could extract some value from the penalty magnet. It will also be important to have a player with the amount of grit Downie has to shield upcoming players like Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.
Overall, the Coyotes continued to bring in some familiar faces to begin its build into a prospective contender. They addressed its forward depth, added a solid backup goaltender and brought in a right-handed blue liner. However, the team is still in need of an established top-line center.
There are still high-profile free agents on the board, including the likes of Matt Beleskey, Antoine Vermette and Joel Ward—who are all likely mulling offers from multiple teams as you read this. It remains to be seen how much more of a splash the Coyotes intend to make on the free agent market, or by trade.
If the team really wants to throw nostalgia in our faces, perhaps a deal with Vermette (Editor's note: How did you know?) or even a trade for defenseman Keith Yandle could be on the horizon.
The Coyotes closed out the afternoon signing defenseman Dylan Reese to a one-year, two-way contract. The terms were not disclosed, but Reese recorded a plus-12 rating with the team's AHL affiliate in Portland last season.
Maloney held a press conference at Gila River Arena around 1:30 p.m. Arizona time to address the team's moves and how the Coyotes plan to move forward. Here are some nuggets from and in wake of the media session:
Don Maloney: "This is the warm-up act for what we need to do. We've strengthened lower half of our lineup. Now we need to add some skill."— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 1, 2015
Maloney reiterates that trades will be likely route for acquiring the skill the Coyotes need for their top lines.— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 1, 2015
Assuming the #Coyotes add a 1C, the team should have four spots open on the wing for younger players to grab.— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) July 1, 2015
Maloney floats the possibility of a Strome or Dvorak making lineup with Downie and good defensive centers to protect & relieve pressure. Hmm— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 1, 2015
#Coyotes GM Don Maloney: "We have a good base in place now. I feel a lot better about our team today than I did two days ago."— Dave Vest (@davest4yotes) July 1, 2015
Maloney says he is in discussion with teams that want to trade good assets but asking price still too high. Staying patient.— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 1, 2015
Hypothetical #Coyotes depth chart: Open/1C Trade/Boedker Open/Hanzal/Rieder Doan/Richardson/Open Chipchura/Gordon/Vitale-Downie— Five For Howling (@Five4Howling) July 1, 2015
Be sure to read more of our coverage on the Coyotes' newest signings: