While we are having record heat in Phoenix, I am dreaming about hockey season and getting inside an ice cold building. It’s 115 degrees out and October seems like a galaxy far, far away. For now I will have to focus on the ways the Coyotes can improve the on-ice play.
The free agency market this summer leaves a lot to be desired; there have definitely been better free agency groups. It also means some players will cost a lot more then they would in a different year. The last I checked, the Coyotes had about 18 million to spend to reach the cap floor. Obviously, some of this will be used on signing UFAs and possible trades but I suspect the Coyotes will need to sign at least a couple of free agents. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Don Maloney add at least one forward and one defensemen to our ranks.
I think the Coyotes will focus on becoming younger and faster than last season’s roster. The Coyotes have three NHL-level free agents in Martin Erat, BJ Crombeen, and David Moss. I don’t believe any of these three will be back. Erat just never lived up to the player he was and could have been. Crombeen was mostly a waste of roster space. Moss has played hard for this team but just doesn’t have a place on the Coyotes moving forward. But of the lengthy list of free agents, who could Arizona possibly go after?
The first player that comes to mind is left wing Matt Beleskey, currently of the Anaheim Ducks. Although, if current reports are true Beleskey will be staying with the Ducks. (It is possible at the time of publishing he has already resigned.) Beleskey will probably command 4-4.5 million, a hefty raise from his current 1.4 million salary. What remains unclear is if 2014-2015 was an anomaly for him or if Beleskey is finally coming into his own. This is the first season he reached the 22 goal mark. His assists are also low for someone netting 22 goals; other players with 22 goals ended the season with between 40 and 80 points. His last season high was 11 goals.
Beleskey is an imposing force at 6’ and 200 pounds. He is still fairly young at 27 and could have a lot of seasons left in him. Beleskey isn’t afraid to play hard. He could be a welcome addition to the Coyotes if he can keep up the 22 goal pace and the Ducks don’t hold on to him.
Another great option for the Coyotes is center Carl Soderberg, currently with the Boston Bruins. Boston needs to make room and the Coyotes could clean up by signing some of the players Boston cannot resign due to cap issues. Soderberg made 1 million last season and will probably go for upwards of 3.5 million. He has been pretty consistent with his numbers over the past two seasons. In 2014-2015, he played 82 games, scored 13 goals and had 31 assists for 44 points. Soderberg would be a depth center and played on the third line in Boston. Soderberg is also a large guy at 6’3 and 216 pounds. He is a little older than Beleskey at 29 but probably still has a few good seasons.
Of course, there is always the option of Antoine Vermette coming back. He has won his ring and has been known to like Phoenix. Vermette is a faceoff specialist and could take some pressure of the young guys to perform. I would be happy to see Vermette back, but I assume with all his game-winning goals during Chicago’s playoffs he may have priced himself out of Arizona.
As far as defenseman, the most obvious choice is Zbynek Michalek, or Z has he is commonly known. We all know that Z wants to be here. The team wants him to be here. And the fans want him to be here. Z has always been a solid, dependable player. Z is not afraid to put his face, or any other body part, in front of a puck. As an aging defenseman I imagine he isn’t looking for a huge pay day and will most likely receive 4 million per year. Z may be looking for a longer contract, as it could be his last. He’s not flashy and won’t rack up the points, but he will be hard working. Z will block shots and guard the blue line with the best of them. He also can be a good role model for the younger guys that will be joining the team. I know I would love the see Z back in the sedona red.
Another victim of the Boston Bruins cap troubles might be Adam McQuaid. He might be a bottom pairing, but he is also a solid defenseman who can help mentor younger players. McQuaid, at 6’4, could also replace Crombeen in the intimidation area. And he isn’t afraid to drop the gloves. He currently earns 1.8 million and could probably get 2.5-3 million. McQuaid may not have the speed the Coyotes are looking for, he’s no Yandle, but he does bring character and professionalism to what could be a very young team.
There are about a million other players available. Some will be way too pricey for the Coyotes. Some don’t fit in the system. Which free agents do you think wind up in a Coyotes uniform for 2015-2016?