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Phoenix Coyotes: What the Team Needs to Do with Their Available Cap Space

Michael JenkinsContributor IIIAugust 22, 2012

Phoenix Coyotes: What the Team Needs to Do with Their Available Cap Space

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    With all the drama following the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes this summer, many of you have asked how the team will look next season.

    According to the powers that be, including GM Don Maloney, the team that you see on paper today is the team that will hit the ice on Opening Night. Maloney has indicated that it is the club's intention to sign Captain Shane Doan to a long term deal as soon as the sale of the team is completed to former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison.

    If the team that they currently have hits the ice on Opening Night minus the "Doaner", the Coyotes will have the task of replacing their top-two scoring forwards with what currently are on the roster.

    What many fans don't know, is the Coyotes have the most available cap space of any team in the NHL as we approach the start of the season. According to CapGeek.com, the Coyotes current payroll sits just south of $45 million ($44.836 million). That leaves them just over $25 million under the salary cap with room to maneuver even if they re-sign Doan to a multi-year deal.

    To get to the lower limit of the salary cap, the Coyotes will have to spend more than $9 million or more or face potential forfeiture of draft picks or fines. That money does not necessarily have to be spent on new players but can be offered in performance bonuses. Teams can also look for expiring contracts with high salaries to help offset this dilemma. 

    How should the Coyotes spend their money? Will they be able to spend that money? Do they even have that money to spend if the sale occurs soon? What will Jamison allow the team to spend if the deal concludes soon?

    This article will explore how the Coyotes should spend the rest of the money that they have under the cap in a perfect world. I will not look to spend all of it as the Coyotes will not reach the cap maximum during the season. I will look at a couple of moves they may be able to make with the money that may be available to them once the sale concludes.

1. Sign Shane Doan

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    The no-brainer of all the offseason moves the Coyotes can make is to sign their captain, Shane Doan, to a new multi-year deal so that he can finish his career in Phoenix. Doan has played his entire career with the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise (17 years).

    Doan is deserving of a three to four year deal if the money is right. Yes, I said that the money has to be right. If you look at Doan's statistics over the past two seasons, he hasn't been a stellar point producer. Last season, he tied for 96th in the NHL in points scored with 50. In the 2010-11 season, he tied for 46th in the league with 60 points.

    Over the past two years, Doan has accumulated 110 points. If you want a comparable figure for salary and stature, look no further than Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd. Over the past two years, Ladd has scored 109 points and provided valuable leadership to the Winnipeg franchise like Doan has for the Coyotes.

    Ladd will make $4.5 million through the 2015-2016 season. That should be the fair market value for Doan. With all of the crazy money that teams have "offered" Doan this summer to leave the Coyotes, the Desert Dogs will have to overpay for Doan's services. A contract around $5 million for the next three seasons sounds pretty fair for a player of Doan's caliber.

    They need to hammer out this deal ASAP so Doan remains with a franchise that needs him far worse than he needs them.

2. Add Offensive Talent Immediately

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    The Coyotes need offensive firepower badly. They lost their leading scorer (Ray Whitney) to a division rival, the Dallas Stars. They have not re-signed Shane Doan, yet.

    If the Coyotes are going to duplicate last season's heroics, they are going to need young players to step up. Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal have to be consistent point producers. Antoine Vermette needs to put together a full season and end up near the 50-point mark. New additions Steve Sullivan and David Moss have to make a seamless transition into the lineup and attempt to make up for the losses of Taylor Pyatt and Whitney up front.

    Saying all of that, the Coyotes still need to add at least one more consistent point producer to the lineup. There are not that many free agents left out there to fill the void. Names like Jason Arnott, Andrei Kostitsyn and Petr Sykora would be nice to add and they should be able to be signed for a reasonable price.

    My choice would be Sykora of those three. He is a proven goal scorer who can play on the power play. His 21 goals last season showed that he is still a valuable resource to have at the age of 35. He plays solid defensive hockey, shown by his plus-four rating last season. He is reliable, playing in 82 games last season for the New Jersey Devils.

    The Coyotes also have the ability to make a trade due to the deep resources the franchise has, specifically on defense. If the Coyotes could go out and make a trade for Bobby Ryan, I would do it immediately. Ryan has scored 30 plus goals for the last four seasons.

    Two roadblocks to that: His salary and he plays for a division rival. Ryan makes over $5 million a season which might be too expensive for the 'Yotes. Ryan is the most coveted player on the trade market and Anaheim is not going to let him go on the cheap. If a deal was struck, the Coyotes might have to include Keith Yandle or the young phenom Brandon Gormley in any deal to obtain Ryan's services.

3. Sign/Acquire/Promote a Younger, Better Backup Goaltender

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    The Coyotes need to be confident enough to spell Mike Smith more often and not allow him to continue to wear down over the long season. Smith played in 67 games last season, eighth most in the league.

    Jason LaBarbera served as Smith's backup. He played in 19 games and finished with a dismal record, winning only three of those games. His goals against was a decent 2.54 and his save percentage was .912.

    The Coyotes cannot continue to play Smith all of the time and they have to win games when they decide to play their backup. If LaBarbera can't get the job done at the age of 32, the Coyotes need to replace him. Again, there are not many options on the free agent market, so the Coyotes may have to go within their own system to promote somebody.

    If they are looking for experience, then recently signed Chad Johnson is probably their guy. It will save the organization around $600,000 to keep Johnson and let LaBarbera leave. Johnson was the starter for the AHL's Connecticut Whale last season. He played in 49 games, with a 2.49 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

    If they want to go with youth, they will have to promote from within as well and Mike Lee and Mark Visentin could be the choice. Each one of them will save the organization money. The only issue with those two is that they are truly inexperienced and are risky gambles as NHL backups in their rookie season.

    The Coyotes could use money as performance bonuses for their backup and thus get closer to reaching the floor of the salary cap.

4. Re-Sign Mike Smith to a Long-Term Deal

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    Mike Smith played outstanding last season for the Coyotes. He was the main reason why the team won the Pacific Division and advanced into the Western Conference Finals.

    His play bordered on surreal when the team needed him the most. He became the backbone of a team that won largely based on his play between the pipes. That is the design of a Dave Tippett team. Selective scoring, good defense and great goaltending.

    Smith finished with 38 wins last season. He had a 2.21 goals against average and a save percentage of .930. Both are outstanding considering that Smith faced between 30-40 shots every game it seemed.

    Smith's contract is up at the end of the season and the Coyotes should not wait to sign him to at least a two-year extension. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators just signed a multi-year deal worth $7 million a year. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils is making $5 million a year. If Smith can prove that last season was not a flash in the pan, he could find himself in the $5-7 million a year region for his next contract.

    Smith has not had the type of season he had last year consistently throughout his career. He is a 30-year-old journeyman who has finally found a home. If they can sign him in the $5 million range, do it now. If he wants Rinne money, make him prove last year was no fluke.

    Either way, the Coyotes have tabled his extension discussion until the team's sale is finalized.

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