At 31, Zbynek Michalek is the oldest and most experienced member of the Arizona blueline.
But will he stick with the club beyond this season?
The pending UFA has yet to participate in a preseason game, still recovering from a lingering hip issue that sidelined him for 23 contests a year ago, and is already viewed as a potential trade deadline rental given the Coyotes’ outlook for this season. Yet according to GM Don Maloney, the club is interested in keeping the veteran Czech rearguard around.
“We haven’t really started anything, but we’ll see how things play out,” Maloney said of a potential Michalek extension, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s feeling good, and we’ll certainly entertain that at some point this year. We’d like to keep him, obviously.”
It doesn’t sound as though there’s any rush, or timetable, to get Michalek back in action. The Coyotes have already played four of their eight exhibition campaigns and do have a lot of young d-men to take a look at — former first-rounders Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley, specifically. The two are expected to be on the big club this year but, with just 35 combined NHL games between them, they’re still pretty green and need all the reps they can get.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see the Michalek situation play out. A defensive defenseman with some offensive pop — he’s broken the 20-point plateau twice in his career — Michalek could be viewed as a mentor for the young Coyotes defensemen, or deemed expendable by a club that’s undergoing something of a youth movement.