When a decision is finally reached on Zbynek Michalek this offseason, whether he resigns or goes elsewhere, it will not make the front page of the news. The understated defenseman has flown under both the local media and hockey media's radar for the past five years in Phoenix. The low key defenseman is up for a big pay day and the fans are left waiting anxiously with the nervous hope that the Organization recognizes Michalek's true worth to the team and has the commitment to bring him back.
Zbynek Michalek has quietly been a key part of the Phoenix Coyotes organization for the last five years. Since coming to the team in a trade from Minnesota that sent Erik Westrum and Dustin Wood the other way,(a trade that the Coyotes definitely came out ahead in) he has been the ultimate reliable professional. He has only missed a handful of games over his five years with the organization while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time each season and almost averaging 177 blocked shots per year, including the 2008-2009 season which he lead the league with 271 blocked shots. This past season he moved into 4th place in Phoenix Coyotes history with 393 games played by passing the likes of Radoslav Suchy, Keith Tkachuk and Paul Mara.
In spite of his consistently solid performance over the years there are those who are still not sold on him. He has never been the offensive threat he showed the potential of being in his first season that he scored nine goals. He also isn't a physically dominate force at the blueline who can clear the likes of Holmstrom and Bertuzzi from the front of the net. He is however a smooth skating defenseman who always makes the right pass and is the right position at the right time. He is always there with his stick or body to deflect a shot and doesn't hesitate to take a hit to make a play. It should also be remembered that over the last several years he has spent a significant amount of his time paired with Jovanovski, and while Jovanovski has his positives he is also a major defensive liability at times. Michalek frequently has to hold back and be prepared to defend against a sudden 2-on-1 going the other way when Jovanovski coughs up the puck. His commitment to his defensive responsibilities have prevented him from jumping up on the play offensively and having a bigger impact on the scoring sheet. It is scary to imagine just how bad Jovanovski would look if he didn't have Michalek watching his back on a regular basis.
The Phoenix Coyotes are in a much different place then they had been previously. They find themselves loaded with depth on the defensive end. They have a good eight to nine guys on the current roster and multiple prospects on the cusp of being NHL ready. In spite of this it would be a huge mistake to let Michalek walk. The team should do everything they can to lock Michalek up. He has established himself with the team. He isn't an unknown gamble that any other UFA would be. He is also only 27 years old and just now coming into his prime. He also is not an injury prone player. You can count on him playing over twenty minutes per game. You can count on him sacrificing his personal stats to cover his partner's back. You can count on him dropping down to block a 90 mile per hour shot without hesitation and you can count on him doing all these things for 82 games a year.
Lets throw 3.75mil for 4 years at him Maloney and turn our attention to Lombardi and the long list of RFAs that we have.