Mike Smith looking for big contract, not sure Coyotes can provide it

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Although Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had a less than ideal 2013 campaign, he has established himself as a starting goaltender over the last two seasons. Now he wants to be paid accordingly.

Smith has completed his two-year, $4 million contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Coyotes GM Don Maloney would like to re-sign him, but Smith isn’t sure that Maloney’s in a position to offer the kind of deal that the 31-year-old netminder is seeking.

“Obviously, I’d like to know where I stand in this whole thing, and the stability of this franchise has a huge impact on that,” Smith told the Arizona Republic. “I don’t think Don’s in a position right now, with no ownership, to have the authority to sign a deal like that.”

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson recently inked a six-year, $33 million contract extension with Phoenix, but Smith thinks his situation isn’t comparable.

“He’s 21 years old. I’m (31),” Smith said. “The league can approve a deal like that where I think I’m in a different category than him. Obviously you can’t lose a player like that to an offer sheet when you have a chance to sign him to the kind of money we’re talking with him.”

It’s worth adding that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly doesn’t see the Coyotes’ ownership situation as a roadblock to keeping Smith.

“Team management would have the ability to negotiate and make recommendations as to appropriate contract ‘term’ for league approval,” Daly said. “So, I wouldn’t agree there are any real limitations on the club’s ability to re-sign Mike Smith, other than those that are related to the team’s overall budget — which is the same situation that most, if not all, clubs deal with on a regular basis.”

Either way, the Coyotes are a small market team and are expected to operate within those parameters. So the questions are if Maloney feels conceding to Smith’s demands are in the best interests of the club and if the goaltender is willing to provide the Coyotes with a hometown discount to aide in the process. If not, Smith could be testing the free agent waters soon enough.