Looks like Phoenix general manager Don Maloney can sleep a little easier these days.
Perhaps the most demanding and agonizing negotiation is now behind him because Maloney signed defenseman Keith Yandle, his top offseason priority, to a long-term mega-deal on July 5.
If fireworks were exploding on his native Boston Commons the Fourth of July, Yandle made sure there was additional time for celebration for the day after America celebrated its 235th birthday, Yandle exploded his own fireworks by signing a reported five-year, $26.25 million deal with Phoenix.
Yandle was a restricted free agent and could only sign with the Coyotes. Maloney enticed his top blue-liner with the promise to build the Desert Dogs around the 24-year-old Boston native.
"He's an assistant captain, fits into our culture and he fits into our future," Maloney told NHL.com. "I thought it was good value for a top young defenseman with Norris Trophy potential that I believe still has upside to his game. He's a key guy to put in the bank and lock away for five years. Hopefully we can make him even better."
While Yandle is emerging as one of the top offensive defenseman in the game, Maloney hopes new assistant coach Jim Playfair will work to improve Yandle’s defensive game.
In raising the bar on his offensive game, Yandle set a career mark with 59 scoring points (11-48; 0-5-5 in four playoff games), good for third best among all NHL blue-liners, finishing fifth in the running for the Norris Trophy. Yandle was also the Coyotes lone rep in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N. C.
"Yandle a unique player," Maloney told NHL.com. "I liken him to a Dan Boyle and a Duncan Keith in that once Keith (Yandle) becomes better in his own zone, he's a guy that you want to throw out in play in the last minute of periods. I think that will come with growing and maturing. He's an interesting guy because he can play all game long if you ask him. Those guys generally get paid a lot of money.
"Keith has it in him to be a top No. 1 defenseman on a winning team, and that's what we're all about here."
Should his defensive skills improve, Yandle will likely get an expanded role in killing penalties. Yandle led the Coyotes in ice time with 24.22 minutes per game but with Ed Jovanovski now with Florida, Yandle may received increased ice time.
"When you have a guy like Jovo—he was there for six or seven years, and just the respect he had in the locker room, playing against other teams' top lines, playing a lot of minutes, I want to be in that position," Yandle told NHL.com.
"As an (alternate) captain, I want guys to come to me and talk to me. I want to lead on the ice and in the locker room. I see other guys play a lot of minutes and I want to be up there as one of those guys who plays the most minutes in the League or close to it."
If Maloney captured Yandle, negotiations with restricted free agent forward Lauri Korpikoski (19-21, 40 in 79 games; 0-2-2 in four playoff games) may not be as easy or rewarding. Korpikoski filed for salary arbitration. Hearings are scheduled between July 20 and August 4, and Coyotes remain hopeful a deal can be struck before the arbitrator’s ruling.