This off-season is a very important one for the future of the team, and I am not referring to the draft and picking the right prospect. That is not something the Coyotes really need to be worried about due to their over populated list of top-end prospects. What the Coyotes need to worry about is getting the fans of Arizona to come watch them play that winter sport of ice hockey at “The Job".
The one thing the new owner needs to be aware of when it comes to fans in Phoenix is that they are notorious for being fair-weather fans.
Think Field of Dreams “If you win it, they will come” when it comes to the fans of Phoenix sports teams, so what the new owner needs to do is go BALLS TO THE WALL. “Spend money to make money” will have to be the motto of the new owner if he wants to put together a hockey team that fans will start paying attention to in the desert.
Besides the obvious re-signings that they need to do with their restricted free agents such as Scottie Upshall, Keith Yandle, and Nigel Dawes, the Coyotes need to look further than San Antonio to fill out their roster next year. It might be difficult to attract a big free agent looking for a long term contract to Phoenix, seeing how they were almost moved to Hamilton just a month ago.
But who knows? It doesn’t hurt to try and have a talk to some of them. One player who will get a lot of attention, but may scare a few teams due to injury problems is Marian Gaborik. He is a player who, when healthy, can be a franchise player and carry a team on his back. But he has been no stranger to the IR the past few years and some teams may shy away from over paying for him in a long-term contract.
The Coyotes should pounce on this, no pun intended (ok there was a little intended) and try to lure Gaborik to Phoenix for a seven-year contract worth $49 million. Not many teams may feel he is worth that much for that long, but when he isn’t hurt, that is exactly what he would be worth.
Another player that could be a smart move to help put up some points for the Coyotes is Mike Cammalleri, where it’s been said he will follow the most money and not the team for success, which can work out for us. He put in a lot of goals for the Kings and even more when with the Flames, so his goals will be a blessing to the Coyotes.
The Coyotes are also one of the few teams with enough room to try and sign the Sedins, assuming they want to go from cold winters to slightly cool winters in Phoenix. Remember the old saying “Never say never” because all it can take is one meeting with GM Don Maloney or the new owner that can have them walk out and say, “Wow, I really like this organization."
Other options could be Alex Tanguay, who could be that playmaker Peter Mueller needs to score 30 goals, Nik Antropov, whose big body could be just like Tkachuk was for us back in the day and help bolster our god-awful power play, or Marty Havlat if he doesn’t sign with Chicago first.
The Coyotes need to also think about filling out their defense this off-season too and while we have some prospects who may be ready to make the jump, we need some NHL ready D-men as well. Derek Morris has always expressed his desire to come back to Phoenix but only for a multi-year deal, which with new ownership shouldn’t be a problem.
But the ‘Yotes could look elsewhere for something a little different, someone who hasn’t been on the team for the past four years. Someone like Mattias Ohlund, who is being over-shadowed by Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Komisarek, would be excellent covering back for Ed “Oh-No Jovo” Jovanovski when he gets caught pinching or is just too slow to get back.
Johnny Oduya is another player who is not too old and is a good number two-three defenseman with some offensive upside to him. Scoring may have been a tough area for the Coyotes last year, but their defense is very scarce when it comes to proven NHL defenseman. Other options could be to pursue Steve Montador, Rob Scuderi, or bring Dennis Seidenberg back
If the free agent path doesn’t work, the Coyotes might want to think going down the trade path, which they pulled last year by acquiring Olli Jokinen, but unfortunately was met with mediocre results. Remember, Don Maloney is a very good GM who has managed some very trades that favored the Coyotes more (Carcillo for Upshall and and second round pick).
This year there are two very big names being thrown out as trade bait, Dany Heatley and Vincent Lecavalier. These two players have shown consistency in their game since they broke into the league and can easily carry a franchise.
The Coyotes also have the prospects needed to try and make a deal for one of these two. Sure both teams need defense, which is an area of prospects that we lack, but maybe the new owner can have a meeting with our supposed number one defenseman, Ed Jovanovski, and encourage him to waive his no-trade clause to be included as part of the deal.
For Heatley, the deal may need to get done before the draft, but if we include the right combination of prospects, maybe Ottawa will settle for a 2010 first round pick. For Heatley, I'm thinking a good deal could be Peter Mueller or Martin Hanzal, Enver Lisin, and a first round pick (2009 or 2010) for Heatley and second-round pick.
A deal I think may be good to acquire Vinny could go something like Jovo(assuming he waives his no-trade clause), Dawes, Enver Lisin, and a first-round pick for Vinny and Ty Wishart. Maybe tweak some names here and there, throw in some picks and what not, but when you trade players like that away, chances are you are trying to re-build and that’s what I factored into these deals.
Regardless of the recommendations I made, one thing is obviously clear; The Coyotes need to make money to stay in Phoenix. They aren’t going to make money in Phoenix unless they win and make the playoffs, or at worst make a very strong push. In order to do that, they need to put more pucks in the net, which was their biggest problem last year, which is why they need a true franchise player.
I am not knocking Doan as a franchise player, but he just is not a player to have score the majority of your points. He is a great captain, a good player, and a terrific leader for the younger players, but he needs help.
The Olli Jokinen experiment didn’t work out too well, but maybe we didn’t give it enough time. I think if the Coyotes' new ownership wants to win, they need to bite the bullet and open the wallets to bring in a true goal-scorer who can help make the Coyotes a playoff team for the first time in eight years.