For a team that needs help putting the puck in the net, the Phoenix Coyotes will go after scoring in the upcoming free-agent market.
That may be the good news, but the reality is that the current crop of those eligible to sign in the open market is limited.
While the free-agent bidding begins on July 1, no name truly stands out, and the Coyotes, as an option, could also look internally to their minor league talent.
“It should be an interesting market,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said. “Last summer, Minnesota picked up some elite players and that pushed them into the playoffs. Overall, it’s not a great pool and how we handle this will be the big question.”
In an attempt to gain a foothold into the playoffs this past season, the Coyotes traded for forward Martin Erat at the trade deadline this past March. Hoping his Czech nationality and language would be a natural fit for fellow countrymen and prospective linemates Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata, the experiment ended in failure.
After the season ended, Maloney said the Coyotes derived little benefit from the trade and indicated Erat could be a better fit for another team. In the end, the 33-year-old native of Trebic, in the Czech Republic, managed two goals and three assists for Phoenix in 16 games.
For a team that had only three 20-goal scorers and only six players who hit double-digits in goal scoring, the task ahead is plain.
Find bodies who can score.
While several names from Coyotes AHL affiliate, Portland Pirates ,have surfaced, Maloney will likely pursue the open, free-agent market. The most likely fit could be Ales Hemsky, who, at 30 years old, has knowledge of the NHL Western Conference and a history of production.
As Edmonton’s first pick, and the 13th overall selection in the 2001 draft, Hemsky has 146 career goals in 671 games and could be a better fit than Erat to a team with fellow countrymen Hanzal and Vrbata.
Yet, Vrbata is a free agent and his penchant for erratic play may not keep the native of Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, in Sedona Red much longer. Vrbata turns 33 in the middle June.
Though the Oilers gave up on Hemsky and dealt him to Ottawa last March 5 at the trading deadline, he managed 17 points with the Senators in 20 games. That included four goals and 13 assists.
If the Coyotes pass on Hensky, the remaining selections are considered light.
Among the most attractive could be forward Mike Cammalleri, most recently with Calgary. Cammalleri, who will be 32 early next month, scored 26 goals last season for the Flames. The native of Richmond Hill, Ontario has a history of putting the puck in the net.
For the Flames in the 2008-09 season, Cammalleri pumped in 39 goals and once scored 34 for the Kings during the 2006-07 season.
Otherwise, Maloney could choose from Brenden Morrow, who played last season for St. Louis (13 goals in 72 games) or veteran Jarome Iginla, most recently with Boston.
Mark Brown is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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