While most of the focus rests on the team’s off-ice issues, the Phoenix Coyotes also have some questions to answer on the ice.
The two biggest ones center on unrestricted free agent Lee Stempniak and restricted free agent Martin Hanzal. Here is the latest news on those two players from Jim Gintonio of the Arizona Republic.
Hanzal is restricted, and a deal will get done at some point, and the unrestricted Stempniak continues to assess his value on the open market.
Assistant general manager Brad Treliving said Hanzal is the priority and expressed confidence that he will be signed “hopefully sooner rather than later; I think it’s the process right now.”
Stempniak’s agent has had weeks to explore options, and he is expected to meet with General Manager Don Maloney within the next several days.
Hanzal is a work in progress, but a substantial one at a towering six-foot-five. He’s had a steady career so far in the NHL, with seasons of 35, 31 and 33 points while he averaged a career-high 18:29 time on ice during the 2009-10 season. He’s the kind of homegrown two-way player that makes a lot of sense in Dave Tippett’s defensively responsible system.
Stempniak is more of a mystery, although I’d guess he is a victim of a tough 2010 free agent market as much as anything else. After flying under the radar in Toronto, Stempniak caught fire as a trade deadline rental with the Coyotes, putting up 14 goals and 18 points in his 18 game audition in the desert. It’s reasonable that Maloney is skeptical that Stempniak can repeat that performance; after all it’s pretty difficult to duplicate a 29.2 percent shooting percentage. Still, if the market dictates that he must take a one-year, low-risk deal … why not give him a chance to prove that it wasn’t a fluke?