Talk around Phoenix this summer has mostly revolved around two individuals — prospective owner Greg Jamison and still-unsigned captain Shane Doan.
But as Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic points out, there’s another key guy that hasn’t received as much of the spotlight.
The 30-year-old goalie had a breakout season in 2011-12, finishing fourth in Vezina and 11th in Hart Trophy voting. He only has one year remaining on the two-year, $4 million deal he signed last July and, given his importance to the team, is a top priority.
Just one catch — the aforementioned ownership situation.
Maloney said the two sides have “exchanged some ideas” about extending Smith’s contact but, given it promises to be a far heftier deal than his current one, the ‘Yotes GM would like to get ownership involved.
Which is a problem, obviously.
“When you start looking at big contracts [including the length of deals], you certainly want ownership to be included in the process,” Maloney told the Republic.
As such, the Smith extension is on hold.
Looking ahead, it’s unclear exactly what Smith would garner on the open market. Two of the guys that finished ahead of him in the Vezina voting — Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist — have cap hits of $7 and $6.87 million, while the other, Jonathan Quick, just signed a 10-year, $58 million extension.
Even though Smith posted career-highs across the board last season — 38 wins, eight shutouts, .930 save percentage, 2.21 GAA — there are some red flags.
One, the best year of his life came in his seventh NHL season.
Two, Ilya Bryzgalov posted equally stellar numbers while playing in the desert (before going to Philly and losing the plot.) There’s a belief goalies benefit from playing in Phoenix’s defense-first system, with Smith being chief among them.
That said, it’s hard to deny how good he looked last year upon leading the Coyotes to their first-ever Western Conference final.