Sunday, July 5, 2009

Coyotes This & That…

Two Coyotes -- Nigel Dawes and Dan Winnik have filed for salary arbitration. This means that if the team and the layers do not reach agreement on a contract, a hearing will be held on a hearing in Toronto between July 20th and August 4th. The players and the team will argue their respective cases and an arbitrator will decide their 2009-10 salary.

The two players cannot sign offer sheets and are bound to play for the Coyotes by the amount decided by the arbitrator. The team has walk away rights from offers if they choose. This could be an issue if Dawes is rewarded with a higher offer than the Coyotes are comfortable paying based on his modest goal scoring over the past two years. On Monday we’ll learn if the Coyotes are invoking team elected salary arbitration on any of their other RFAs. This could happen if negotiations with any of the qualified RFAs are not going well. Watch to see if Keith Yandle or Scott Upshall are taken to arbitration.

Elsewhere, there are still lots of quality players available in free agency. I count 32 players who made more than $2MM last year and another 31 who made between $1-2MM looking for work.

Unfortunately for the Yotes, the number one need on their shopping list is goal scorers and there are not a lot of marksmen still unsigned. And the ones left are generally in the back half of their careers and looking for landing places with contenders. Players like Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, Saku Koivu, Petr Sykora and Robert Lang are all likely to head to teams looking to win now.

Don Maloney has a few choices. He can break the bank for one of the bigger names. Of those available, Tanguay may be the best price/value option. Or he can roll the dice on a reclamation project. Maxim Afinogenov anyone? Or perhaps he may be to find a trading partner.

If Maloney decides to go the trade route, he has plenty of assets available, mostly on the back end. The Coyotes have 7 NHL defensemen signed for next year (OK, 6 + David Hale) and 4 1st round draft choices coming along. He could also further fortify the backline with any of the several workmanlike defensemen still available. And perhaps that would open up the possibility of trading a defenseman for a scoring forward.

And the ability to move a defenseman could also address the payroll situation. While GMDM still has some money available (The Coyotes are flirting with the cap floor with their current roster) there’s little doubt he would be open to moving the two bad contracts on the team – defensemen Ed Jovanoski and Jim Vandermeer. If he could move either or both contracts, it could open up many possibilities. He would certainly have to take salary back but right now there are more quality defensemen available than scorers.

Several rumor mills are talking about Jovo being in play. There’s little doubt that Maloney has already talked to the player and his agent about possible destinations (likely before the draft) and a deal could happen. The Coyotes would no doubt have been in the Ryan Smyth trade talks but without moving a big contract, they couldn’t take that kind of salary back. It’s almost impossible to guess what players might be available but a big salary for big salary trade could be the next Coyotes move.

And on a somewhat unrelated subject, you may have heard that the Chicago Blackhawks may have missed the deadline for tendering their restricted free agents. If that’s the case as many as 14 Hawks could be declared free agents. It’s a complex case that is being investigated by the NHL and being closely watched by the NHLPA. Cam Barker and Kris Versteeg are the biggest names available and if both became free agents, they would get tremendous interest around the league. Probably too rich for the Coyotes system.

There’s another lesser known player who might interest the Coyotes – goaltender Corey Crawford. He’s projected as the backup in Chicago next year and as a prospect on the rise, he could be a very appealing free agent. Front office fiascos of this nature are not unprecedented – it happened to the New Jersey Devils several years ago. The difference this time around is the salary cap restraints. It would clearly cramp the Hawks going forward.

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