It’s Arizona Coyotes day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Arizona Coyotes.

The Arizona Coyotes struggled both offensively and defensively last season, and as a result they finished 29th overall with a 24-50-8 record.

Their 11-25-5 record at Gila River Arena was their worst home record since moving to Arizona 19 years ago.

Arizona finished 29th overall scoring 2.01 goals-for per-game and allowed 3.28 goals-for per-game good for 28th overall.

“Not only couldn’t we score last year, we couldn’t defend,” GM Don Maloney told NHL.com.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson led the way offensively with a career-high 23 goals and 43 points in 82 games for the Coyotes in 2014-15. His 23 goals were the most by a defenseman last season. The 24-year-old also represented Arizona at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.

Up front, Sam Gagner led all Coyotes’ forwards with 15 goals and 41 points – both were his highest totals since the 2011-12 season while a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Mike Smith carried the load in goal making 62 appearances going 14-42-5 while posting a 3.16 G.A.A. and a .904 save percentage.

Off-season recap

The Arizona Coyotes solved their off-ice dispute over a lease agreement with the City of Glendale last month. The new deal will keep the Coyotes at Gila River Arena for at least the next two seasons.

Not surprisingly, the team is already pushing to have the deal extended.

As far as on-ice moves go, Maloney brought back Antoine Vermette after trading him to the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the trade deadline. Arizona also signed free-agent forwards Steve Downie and Brad Richardson.

On the blue line, the Coyotes brought back Zbynek Michalek, who was dealt to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline. Arizona also acquired Nicklas Grossmann in the trade, which also landed them the contract of Chris Pronger.

In goal, the Coyotes signed Anders Lindback to back up Smith.

“I think we’ll play better defense in front of [Smith], which is important,” Maloney said. “I think we’ll have a better structure in front of Mike so he doesn’t feel like he has to be all-world every night and he can just do his thing.”

Del Zotto deal is a reminder: Flyers are in salary cap jail

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Every GM experiences a hiccup or two, but there are many signs that Ron Hextall has a sound plan for the Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, Paul Holmgren left behind quite the mess.

Michael Del Zotto’s two-year contract more or less takes up Philly’s cap space for 2015-16 (unless Hextall clears some room with a move or two). That spending has to sting, especially since this largely similar roster failed to earn a playoff bid last season.

By signing Del Zotto to a two-year deal at that $3.875 million cap hit, this also reminds us that the Flyers could take some time to break themselves out of salary cap jail. At the moment, the outlook doesn’t look so great for 2016-17 and maybe beyond:

Indeed, $48.5 million for 13 players is rough when you start to forecast a possible deal for Jakub Voracek, assuming the Flyers can find a compromise with their outstanding winger.

It doesn’t stop there, either.

The summer of 2016 could be challenging

While Sam Gagner’s $3.2 million cap hit could very well be funneled into other bank accounts, the Flyers really might need to fork over some money to keep RFAs Brayden Schenn ($2.5 million next season) and Sean Couturier (a steal at $1.75 million in 2015-16) in the fold.

Much-criticized deals, especially Andrew MacDonald’s $5 million cap hit, only sting that much more when you start to think about the raises Philly may need to hand out.

New life – but also uncertainty – in a few years

Beyond those payouts, there’s also the fact that many contracts run out after 2016-17 … although maybe that’s the time when we’ll really get a sense of what Hextall can do?

That’s actually the enticing thing for Flyers fans: the impressive array of draft picks Hextall has been compiling might start to really pay off by right at the time when the organization could finally enjoy some financial breathing room. Hextall is doing what he can with the situation he’s been given, so it’s intriguing to imagine what he might do with more cash to burn.

You know, if he makes it that far.

No buyout: Flyers will keep Gagner

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Sam Gagner is a Philadelphia Flyer — for now, anyway.

On Monday, the Flyers elected not to buy out Gagner prior to the window closing at 12 p.m. ET, meaning he’s a part of the club for the foreseeable future (barring a trade, of course).

More, from CSN Philly:

Gagner told CSNPhilly.com that the last few days have been very “stressful” since being traded here from Arizona while not knowing what his future held.

“I’m very excited and motivated,” Gagner said, adding he did not get much sleep. 

Gagner, acquired at the draft from Arizona in a strange deal that saw Philly send Nicklas Grossmann and Chris Pronger’s contract to the Coyotes, was unsure if he’d ever wear Flyer orange.

His parting gift from Arizona was GM Don Maloney saying he ‘can’t play center at the NHL level,” and his arrival gift in Philadelphia was learning GM Ron Hextall was considering a buyout.

It was a tough turn of events for the former first-round pick. Gagner, who is still only 25 years old, carries a relatively large cap hit of $4.8 million (although some was retained in an earlier deal with Tampa Bay) but has proven to be productive in the past, and scored 41 points in 81 games for the Coyotes last season — tops among all Arizona forwards.

Gagner: ‘I have a lot of people to prove wrong’

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Sam Gagner has demonstrated a high level of play at points in his career. He had four goals and eight points in a single game back in Feb. 2, 2012, and recorded 38 points in 48 contests during the lockout shortened 2013 season.

That sparked Edmonton to ink him to a three-year, $14.4 million deal, but the Oilers shipped him to Tampa Bay the following summer, which in turn moved him to Arizona. On Saturday he endured his third trade in less than a year as he was shipped to Philadelphia and while he hopes the Flyers keep him, he’s aware that the final season of his contract might be bought out.

“I still have a lot to prove and now obviously, it’s a little more heightened,” Gagner told CSN Philly. “I think that I have a lot of people to prove wrong.”

Coyotes GM Don Maloney can be counted as part of that list as he “didn’t think (Gagner) could play center at the National Hockey League level for us.”

If he does get bought out, that likely won’t be the last we see of him. Gagner will still be just 26 years old by the time the 2015-16 campaign starts and it’s not as if his performance was a disaster last season. He was adjusting to a new organization for the first time in his career and playing on an offensively anemic squad, but he still recorded 15 goals and 41 points in 81 games. No other Coyotes forward reached the 40-point mark.

“It’s not the easiest of times,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s going to make me stronger.”

Related: So, what happens if Philly buys out Gagner?

Maloney on Gagner: ‘We didn’t think he could play center’

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Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney was frank when discussing his reasoning behind dealing Sam Gagner to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

The Coyotes dealt Gagner and a conditional draft pick in 2016 and 2017 to the Flyers for defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and the contract of Chris Pronger.

“We didn’t think he could play center at the National Hockey League level for us,” Maloney said of Gagner.

Gagner was the Coyotes top scoring forward during the 2014-15 season with 15 goals to go along with 26 assists in 82 games. In the face off circle Gagner won 46.8 percent of draws he took.

Saturday’s trade was the third time in less than a year that Gagner has been dealt.

The 25-year-old was traded from the Oilers to the Lightning on June 29, 2014 and within hours was traded to the Coyotes.

Gagner has a $4.8 million cap hit and is owed $5 million for the 2015-16 season.

Related: So, what happens if Philly buys out Gagner?