The Arizona Coyotes could have a very different look next season as new general manager Bill Armstrong puts his stamp on the team.
They seem likely to lose Taylor Hall to unrestricted free agency, and there is a decent chance that team captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson gets traded at some point this offseason (Boston or Vancouver perhaps?).
The potential changes continued on Saturday when the team placed veteran forward Michael Grabner on waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract.
“This morning, we put Michael Grabner on waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract,” said Armstrong in a statement released by the team. “This was simply a hockey decision. Michael is an incredible person and a beloved teammate. He is the consummate professional and we appreciate everything he’s done for the Coyotes organization. We wish him and his family all the best in the future.”
Grabner has one year remaining on his contract that pays him $3.35 million per season. As a result of the buyout, the Coyotes will take on a small salary cap hit over the next two seasons ($833,333 this upcoming season and $1.258 million during the 2021-22 season).
He had signed a three-year contract with the Coyotes prior to the 2018-19 season.
At his best, Grabner was one of the NHL’s most unique players due to his blinding speed that created matchup problems for pretty much every team in the league. Breakaways seemed to be a nightly occurrence for him, while he was also a complete game-wrecker for teams on the penalty kill, scoring 22 shorthanded goals throughout his career. That includes a league-leading six shorthanded goals during the 2018-19 season, his first with the Coyotes.
Since entering the league during the 2009-10 season only Brad Marchand (27) has more shorthanded goals. Marchand scored those five additional goals in 151 more games.
The question is whether or not Grabner can still make that sort of impact. He turns 33 in a couple of days and is coming off of two injury-shortened campaigns with the Coyotes, having played in just 87 out of a possible 164 games.