The Phoenix Coyotes raised eyebrows across the league on Tuesday by placing veteran defenseman Rostislav Klesla on waivers.
Klesla, 31, is in the final year of a four-year, $11.9 million deal originally signed with Columbus (he was acquired via trade in 2011.) The Czech rearguard has appeared in 15 games for the Coyotes this season, scoring three points while averaging 15:42 TOI per game.
The former first-round pick (fourth overall, 2000 NHL Entry Draft) has been plagued by injuries this season, missing four games to a lower-body injury and three to a concussion suffered on a hit during a preseason game by L.A.’s Jordan Nolan.
The decision to waive Klesla comes just hours after he played 17 shifts for 14:56 in a 4-2 loss to Nashville on Monday night. It’s worth noting he carries an average annual cap hit of $2.975 million.
Update: Here’s some background behind the move, as per the Arizona Republic…
“We’re looking to try to find ways to improve our group, and I talked to Don after the game last night and we talked about different scenarios,” Tippett said. “One was just to see how we could change the mix a little bit, and [waiving Klesla] was the first step of it.”
The team did not make Klesla available to comment, and team brass wasn’t saying much either.
“We’ll see what happens and at that point, I’ll explain what’s going to happen and why,” General Manager Don Maloney said.
Signs of this demotion started to pop up earlier this month. Klesla was a healthy scratch Nov. 16 against the Tampa Bay Lightning after he was minus-3 the game before against the Chicago Blackhawks despite playing in a team-high 36 shifts (24:41).
Klesla is still practicing with the Coyotes and, if he isn’t claimed by another NHL team by Wednesday morning, will reportedly be sent to Phoenix’s AHL affiliate in Portland.