Derek Morris

Coyotes might let their UFAs walk, Vrbata included


The Arizona Coyotes could be a different-looking team beyond their name change in the 2014-15 season.

After two straight seasons missing the postseason, it sounds like the team is willing to allow most – if not all – of their unrestricted free agents to walk. That much was made clear by reporters including the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

It’s not too surprising to ponder the former-Phoenix-Coyotes letting David Moss, Paul Bissonnette and Jeff Halpern go. The most noteworthy potential losses would be forward Radim Vrbata, defenseman Derek Morris and goalie Thomas Greiss.

Morris and Greiss might be as good as gone. McLellan reports that Greiss, 28, is drawing considerable interest from around the NHL.

Vrbata might be the most interesting factor of them all. Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan reports that the 33-year-old could possibly return, although he might also price himself out of Arizona.

Vrbata scored 20 goals and 51 points with the ‘Yotes last season. A relatively weak free agent market could indeed make the underrated winger overpaid just like that, but there’s also the notion that his best work comes in the desert.

(For more on Vrbata’s value, consider this from Morgan.)

Aside from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mike Smith, there aren’t many Coyotes locked up beyond the 2015-16 season. It seems like the franchise is valuing flexibility over certainty when it comes to contracts, which could mean some key departures come July.

Coyotes got ‘complacent’ with ‘people being here too long,’ says GM


Some pretty interesting stuff coming out of the desert with regards to the future of the Phoenix Coyotes, per the Arizona Republic:

What everyone seems to agree on is that the chemistry of the group needs some tweaking. Besides internal options and free agency, the Coyotes are also open to executing trades — and the targets may be players 23 to 25 years old who complement enthusiasm with experience.

“We have to look at our group and say we need more energy,” [GM Don] Maloney said. “We need more hunger into our group, and maybe we got a little complacent with people being here too long.”

The longest-serving Coyote is captain Shane Doan, but his standing within the organization is about as good as it gets. Maloney also acknowledged Doan’s struggles this year stemmed from issues with conditioning after missing 12 games to Rocky Mountain fever.

So…who else has been in Phoenix too long? A look at some of the other long-serving players:

Radim Vrbata

The Czech sniper scored 27 goals with the Coyotes in 2007-08, then left to sign in Tampa Bay, then left Tampa Bay to play in the Czech Republic, then returned to Phoenix in 2009-10…and has been in the desert ever since. He had a down year in 2013-14, scoring just 20 goals and 51 points while being left off the Czech Olympic team. Vrbata’s a UFA this summer and one wonders if he’ll be back with the ‘Yotes.

Keith Yandle

He’s spent his entire eight-year career in Phoenix but has been the subject of trade rumors throughout the last two. A talented offensive defenseman that’s had his defensive abilities called into question, Yandle’s stats this season reflected that narrative: 52 points in 82 games, with a minus-23 rating (yes, yes, we all know the flaws of the plus-minus statistic.)

Yandle has two years left on his five-year, $26.25 million deal, one that carries an annual cap hit of $5.25 million.

Derek Morris

Has served two lengthy stints in Phoenix — the first from 2003-09, the second from 2010-14. Morris was a healthy scratch late in the season, turns 36 in August and is a pending UFA. Feels like the writing’s on the wall here.

Though he’s not a long-serving Coyote, one figures the future of Mike Ribeiro will be discussed this offseason as well. The veteran center was a disappointment during his first year in Phoenix, a development compounded by the fact he was the club’s big free-agent splash last summer, signing a four-year, $22 million deal.

Ribeiro was also a healthy scratch late in the season, and Maloney acknowledged the struggles.

“I don’t want to stand up here and point the finger at Mike Ribeiro,” Maloney explained. “If he’s standing up here, he’s saying the same thing. He’s disappointed in himself and in his performance. You’d think that a guy of his age or Shane Doan’s age or Derek Morris’ age would be confident. But, their confidence goes in ebbs and flows.

“I think Mike got down on himself and in his play. He got in a rut and couldn’t get out of it.”


Young Coyotes d-men impressing coach Tippett


A couple of Coyotes rookies — defensemen Connor Murphy and Brandon Gormley — are earning praise from head coach Dave Tippett.

“I like the way both of them play,” Tippett said, per azcentral. “They’ve come up, and they defend quick. They play the game quick and defend quick. They think the game well. Young or old or whatever, I like the quickness they play with.”

Murphy, 21, and Gormley, 22, were both first-round picks, so relatively big things were always expected of them. Still, their emergence leaves the Phoenix blue line — which also features Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle — looking pretty good for the future.

Just glancing over the Coyotes’ roster situation, per CapGeek


…and one would have to wager pending UFA Derek Morris won’t be back next season.

Michael Stone, 23, is another young d-man with a bright future. Chris Summers, 26, also seems to have made progress after a good amount of development time in the AHL.

For a budget-conscious club like Phoenix, getting contributions from young players on affordable contracts is extremely important.

Related: Gormley to make NHL debut for Coyotes

Will Phoenix healthy scratch Ribeiro again?


Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett made a bold — and successful — lineup decision on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, making Mike Ribeiro a healthy scratch for what proved to be a crucial 3-2 win.

Now, Tippett might do it again tonight against New Jersey:

This is a noteworthy development, given 1) Ribeiro leads all Coyotes forwards in assists this season, with 30, and is arguably their top setup man; 2) He’s in the first of a lucrative four-year, $22 million deal; 3) Part of the reason Ribeiro signed in Phoenix was to reunite with Tippett, as the pair had great success and chemistry together in Dallas.

“I think that was my No. 1 goal,” Ribeiro said at the time. “To go somewhere knowing the coach and knowing a little bit of what they were looking for and what my role was going to be and being comfortable, and being able to communicate with the coach.

“[Tippet’s] done a great job there in Phoenix. He knows what he can get from me and I know what he wants and I’m ready to work for that.”

All that said, Ribeiro has been slumping lately, scoring just two points in nine games prior to the Pittsburgh benching.

He was especially poor in recent losses to Boston and New York, going a combined minus-4 while being on the ice for two goals — including Ryan McDonagh’s OT winner — against the Rangers on Monday.

Gormley to make NHL debut for Coyotes


Brandon Gormley, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight for the Phoenix Coyotes in Tampa Bay, per Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports.

Gormley was called up Friday from AHL Portland. The 22-year-old defenseman has 63 points in 120 AHL games. He was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Capitals.

Derek Morris will apparently come out of the lineup to make way for Gormley.

Gormley is the lowest pick of the 2010 draft who has yet to play an NHL game.