Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney bought out Mike Ribeiro’s contract over “behavioral issues” and let Radim Vrbata walk because he demanded a no-trade/no-movement clause. Those forwards tied for fourth and second on the team in points respectively, so the obvious question now is how will the Coyotes fill that void.
Keep in mind that they ranked 20th in goals per game in 2013-14, so this isn’t a minor issue. It’s possible to make the playoffs while finishing towards the bottom of the league in goals scored, but that would put even more pressure on goaltender Mike Smith than he’s already facing.
The Coyotes didn’t make a big splash on the free agent market, but they did take on the final two seasons of Sam Gagner’s three-year, $14.4 million contract. The 25-year-old forward (who is celebrating his birthday today) is coming off of a rough campaign, but he might be part of the solution in Arizona.
Gagner did enjoy a breakout campaign in the shortened 2013 season, scoring 14 goals and 38 points in 48 contests. He obviously regressed in 2013-14, but he missed most of October after breaking his jaw during training camp and that might be largely to blame for his struggles.
After watching his contract get passed around from Edmonton to Tampa Bay to Arizona this summer, he should have plenty of motivation to prove himself.
Beyond Gagner, the Coyotes will likely have to hope that their young forwards are capable of picking up the slack. Mikkel Boedker, 24, took a big step forward last season with his 51-point campaign. Max Domi might also make the leap to the NHL in 2014-15.
Throw in a full season of Martin Erat, who the Coyotes acquired from Washington in March, and there’s the potential for the Coyotes’ offense to at least be serviceable, although it certainly remains a big question mark going forward.
Lawson Crouse has joined a talented group of young forwards in Arizona, after the Coyotes acquired the 2015 first-round pick from the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
The Coyotes had to take on the contract of injured forward Dave Bolland, but in their minds, it was worth it to get a player like Crouse, who certainly brings size up front at six-foot-four-inches tall and 212 pounds. He had 23 goals and 62 points in 49 games this season with Kingston in the OHL.
“He’s a unique guy because usually when you add a guy with the type of size he has you usually give up a little bit in skating or you give up a little bit in skill,” said general manager John Chayka, as per the Coyotes website.
“He’s a guy that you add the size and he actually enhances that for your entire group. In our opinion, it was a guy that’s rare to find, difficult to obtain. Certainly, once they become established in the league, those players are locked up well into their 30s and then you end up trying to maybe overpay for a player that has these attributes that’s not in the prime of his career.”
Crouse, who turned 19 years old in June, now joins the likes of Max Domi, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair as part of Arizona’s group of up-and-coming young forwards. He has familiarity with all three from playing in the OHL or for Team Canada at the world juniors.
“He can fly. He’s fast and he hits and he scores goals. You kinda get the total package,” Strome told Sportsnet.
There’s been another possible development in the search for a team name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise.
The Las Vegas ‘Desert Knights’ could perhaps be a thing.
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Last week domain names were registered that might be an indicator that the NHL team scheduled to begin play in 2017 could be called the Las Vegas Desert Knights.
Last week the domains lasvegasdesertknights.com, vegasdesertknights.com and desertknightshockey.com were privately registered to Moniker Privacy Services, which is the same company that procured the domain name to NHL.com.
DetroitHockey.net first reported the new domain name Thursday morning.
Foley said via text message he had no comment regarding the process when reached by the Review-Journal.
As the Las Vegas franchise continues to hire key members for its hockey operations department, there is growing intrigue when it comes to the search for a new name.
What will this new franchise be called?
The wait continues, and there has been a lot of space dedicated to speculating and discussing the possibilities.
It’s been reported that the expansion franchise could use one of at least three ‘Hawks’-orientated names. Owner Bill Foley also said this summer that Las Vegas can’t use a ‘Knights’ nickname is Canada, because London’s OHL franchise was also named the Knights.
Stay tuned . . .
Scott Luce has gone from the Florida Panthers to the Las Vegas expansion franchise.
The new NHL organization — still searching for a team name — announced Thursday that it has hired Luce as its new director of amateur scouting.
Luce spent the last 14 years in Florida, as a scout and as director of player personnel.
Luce was let go earlier in the offseason, as the Panthers underwent massive change within their front office, with the promotion of Dale Tallon to president of hockey operations and Tom Rowe to GM, and more attention to analytics.
After announcing the hiring of Jared Bednar as their next head coach, the Colorado Avalanche have brought in forward Rene Bourque on a professional tryout, according to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail.
Bourque became an unrestricted free agent at the beginning of July, after his six-year contract worth a total value of $20 million expired. The annual cap hit on his previous deal was $3.333 million.
He spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring three goals and eight points in 49 games. He was placed on waivers at the end of February.
During the 2014-15 campaign, he spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and the Blue Jackets, before a back injury sidelined him for the remainder of that season.