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.
The Phoenix Coyotes were less than a second away from getting out of the second period with a two-goal lead.
And then the New Jersey Devils got a goal from Ryane Clowe with 0.3 seconds remaining in the middle period, cutting the Coyotes’ lead in half. A garbage goal, it was. Clowe was driven from behind to the ice by Jeff Halpern when the pass out front was made. The puck hit off Clowe and past Thomas Greiss.
Here’s the explanation of the goal, courtesy the league’s Situation Room Blog:
At 19:59 of the second period in the Phoenix Coyotes/New Jersey Devils game, video review confirmed the referee’s call on the ice that Jon Merrill’s shot deflected off of Ryane Clowe and into the net in a legal fashion, completely crossing the goal line with 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock. According to Rule 78.4 “if an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed.” Good Goal New Jersey.
It was close, and warranted a review, but Jeff Halpern’s goal eventually stood as the game winner for a Phoenix Coyotes team battling for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Halpern scored with 3:05 remaining in the third of Monday’s game against the L.A. Kings, giving Phoenix a 4-3 win over their Pacific Division rival. The play had to be reviewed, but the call on the ice was overturned. That completed a third-period comeback for Phoenix. The Coyotes trailed by a goal going into the third period. For other teams this season, that’s mean a loss when up against the Kings.
This tweet from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports heading into the third period sums up just how good the Kings have been with the lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
The win and two points are huge for the Coyotes. They jump ahead of the Dallas Stars for the final Wild Card spot in the West. The lead is only two points and Dallas has two games in hand.
But the Halpern winner provided serious drama in the final minutes.
The Phoenix Coyotes are expected to get Rostislav Klesla back in action on Tuesday after he was activated from the IR, according to Dave Vest of the team’s Web site.
The 31-year-old blueliner’s had an injury-ravaged start to this season. He suffered a concussion in the preseason and is recovering from a lower-body issue that sidelined him since Oct. 24. Klesla has only been able to play in seven games so far.
Vest notes that Jeff Halpern (upper body) and Dave Schlemko (lower body) won’t be able to play against the Vancouver Canucks tonight, however.
While Brad Richards sputtered and Rick Nash struggled in the 2013 playoffs, Derick Brassard carried over his post-trade momentum with 12 points in 12 postseason games. Overall, he made a fantastic first impression on the New York Rangers.
Still, he admitted to Blueshirts United on Friday that his departure from the Columbus Blue Jackets was a bit overwhelming, although the condensed schedule allowed him to avoid too many distractions.
“I was in one point in my career – I’m 25 years old now – that I needed a change and I felt like in New York, I needed to prove myself,” Brassard said. “One thing I noticed is that I was not thinking too much on the ice, I was just playing. And that’s my game.”
The skilled forward hopes to play big minutes and be a “huge part” of the team in 2013-14. It’s not surprising that he gave the Alain Vigneault hire a thumbs up, then.
“I think all the guys are pretty excited about it,” Brassard said.
Brassard reflects on the trade – including needing to use Jeff Halpern’s gloves last season – and anticipates the 2013-14 season in the video below.