Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:16 am
Edited on: July 24, 2011 9:45 am
By Adam Gretz
TICKET SALES ON THE RISE IN PHOENIX: It may not be quite as impressive as the Buffalo Sabres' record renewal rate, but the Phoenix Coyotes have set their own franchise record for season-ticket renewals. According to the Arizona Republic, the team has sold over 1,000 new season ticket packages this summer and has had a 90-percent renewal rate, the highest mark in the history of the team. All of this despite continued uncertainty in ownership and with the long-term future of the franchise. The Coyotes averaged 12,188 fans per game last season, 29th in the NHL (only the Islanders averaged less). Any improvement is a positive sign at this point.
SURGERY FOR MALONE: The Tampa Bay Lightning reported on their Twitter feed that forward Ryan Malone underwent shoulder surgery this offseason, and he should be ready for the start of training camp. The team claims any reports of him being out four-to-six months are "inaccurate."
BISHOP COMPETING FOR BACKUP ROLE: Ben Bishop and Brian Elliott are set to compete for the backup goaltender spot in St. Louis, and it should simply come down to which player plays the best. Contracts or the salary cap shouldn't play a factor, because as general manager Doug Armstrong said, via Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch, "Two guys, both making the same amount of money, looking for the same job."
STAMKOS HAPPY TO STAY IN TAMPA BAY: After weeks of offer-sheet speculation, the Lightning were finally able to sign restricted free agent Steven Stamkos to a five-year contract last week. Stamkos, as well as general manager Steve Yzerman, talked about the process of finally working out a deal, and the 21-year-old superstar seems happy to stay with the Lightning.
Posted on: July 21, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 10:24 am
By: Adam Gretz
The Phoenix Coyotes signed free agent goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year contract on the first day of free agency and will give him an opportunity to fill the void left by the trade of Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers. Those aren't small shoes to fill, as Bryzgalov was a large part of the Coyotes' success over the past two seasons.
Smith, however, is confident he can do his part and is optimistic about his opportunity having past experience with coach Dave Tippett when they were both in Dallas. Goaltenders tend to perform well in Tippett's system, and Smith is excited about the chance to once again play for him. He's also looking forward to getting a chance to work goaltender coach Sean Burke, who experienced some of the same career struggles as Smith when it came to finding a starting job.
I had a chance to spend a few minutes on the phone with the 29-year-old goaltender on Thursday night, and we discussed his decision to sign with Phoenix, his first experiences as an unrestricted free agent, favorable systems for goaltenders and our least favorite rule in the NHL.
Adam Gretz: Obviously, Mike, you have a bit of a history with Dave Tippett, your new head coach, having played for him when you both were in Dallas a few years ago. How much of that played into your decision to join the Coyotes, and how much of it was the opportunity to compete for a No. 1 job?
Mike Smith: I think the main thing was the opportunity. Saying that, knowing Tip very well from my time in Dallas, I have a lot of respect for him and like the way he coaches. Obviously, it's a defensive style and he plays a very tight system, which is very intriguing for a goaltender. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, too. Obviously, the opportunity was No. 1, but it wasn't a hard decision knowing Tip was going to be there, and having a guy like Sean Burke was a pretty big thing, too.
Gretz: You mentioned the system he plays, and that's actually something I wanted to bring up. We always talk about certain systems that are favorable to goalies, and I admit, I do this as much as anybody having never actually played the position myself. But can you give us an idea as to how much that really does help a goaltender? I mean, if you're facing 40 shots from the perimeter, I would imagine that's not as much of a grind as having to stop 20 shots from right in front of the net. But at the end of the day you still have to make the saves, regardless of how many there are or where they're coming from.
Smith: Like you said, you have to make the saves when you're called upon to make the saves; that's you're job and that's what it comes down to. There are systems that are favorable to goalies because you're going to get more shots from the outside. There's not going to be as many scoring chances from the great scoring chance areas in the middle of the ice. For me, with my size and my ability, if I feel like I can get a lot of shots from the outside, I'm going to do my best and have a good opportunity to make those saves. Goaltending is simply a position where, if you have mistakes in front of you, you're called upon to make saves. That's just part of being a goaltender in the National Hockey League.
Gretz: How much do you know about your new goaltending coach, Sean Burke? I've heard a lot of good things about him. I spoke to Adrian Aucoin last year, for example, and he raved about how much Burke helped Bryzgalov's career go to another level, and you're arriving in Phoenix around the same age and around the same point in your career as Bryzgalov did.
Smith: I don't know a whole lot about him at this point, but what I do know is that from talking to him, I know a little bit about how he's gone through the same type of things I've been through in my career. That's big, having a goalie coach that's been through similar situations. He kind of bounced around early in his career, and then ended up finding his way toward the end of his career and ended up being an outstanding goaltender for a lot of years.
I think he feels he can help me in that way, because, well, he's been there and done that. I think he has a lot of knowledge that I may not know about yet, and I'm really excited about learning from him and getting better. Just from talking to him, it excites me a lot and I'm looking forward to meeting him and getting to work with him.
Gretz: It seems like the free agent market has been kind of rough for goalies in recent years, simply because there are so few openings around the league right now, especially this offseason. For one, it's not like a team carries four or five left wings or seven defensemen; there are only two goalies on the roster and only one plays in a given game (usually, unless it's a bad night for somebody). Did you have any issues finding interested teams or finding an open spot?
Smith: I know there were a few teams interested. I'm not exactly sure which ones, but talking with my agent and going to free agency we knew we might have an opportunity to get a chance to play. It's definitely exciting that Phoenix is giving me that chance, and getting a chance to reunite with Tip and work with Sean is very exciting. It was a stressful time, obviously, and it happened pretty quick after free agency started. But the first hour or so was pretty nerve-wracking and stressful, just not knowing where you're going to be.
Obviously, it was a different situation for me this year having never been an unrestricted free agent before. Having to go through that was a different experience, but I'm very excited to be a part of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Gretz: I'm sure you've been asked this more than once since you've joined the Coyotes, but is there any extra pressure for you having to go in and replace a pretty productive player in Bryzgalov? Or do you just go in and say, forget all of that, I'm Mike Smith, I'm going to play my game and be who I am because that's why they signed me?
Smith: Yeah, absolutely. You can never look at it like that because there's always been great goaltenders on every team that you play for, so they're always going to make comparisons. The main thing is I know I'm capable of playing really well. I know 'Bryz' did some outstanding things in Phoenix and has had a great career so far and will probably continue to do so in Philly, but I'm not going there with the expectation of surpassing him.
I'm just going to go there and take it one game at a time, play up to my capability, and if I do that, good things are going to happen for me.
Gretz: You've always been regarded as a pretty good puck-handler, so I wanted to get your opinion on this as a goalie because it is, quite possibly, my least favorite rule in the NHL. The trapezoid rule. Hockey is game of flow, and I'm simply not a fan of limiting the movements of one of the players on the ice. Thoughts?
Smith: Absolutely. I feel that I've worked on this skill that I've gained throughout my whole career, and they're limiting that and taking it away from a goaltender that's able to do it. I compare it to a defenseman that's a good puck-rusher and scores a lot of points. It would be like saying a defenseman can't go below the hashmarks to score or get the puck. That's how I look at it. They're never going to do that because it would limit scoring chances.
I feel like it can actually help to put more scoring chances in the game and keep the game flowing more. There's times where you can go and stop the puck and move it. So, no, I don't like the rule, personally. I don't think the rule really does all that much because if you're a good puck-mover you're going to find a way to go out there and get the puck anyway.
Gretz: Finally, you're going to a team that has the NHL's most well-known Tweeter in Paul Bissonnette. Can we find you on Twitter or any other social media site?
Smith: (Laughs) No, no. Not yet. Talking to people in the media world, they've said I would be really good at something like that, but I haven't ventured that way yet, and I don't plan to in the near future. But you never know down the road. It might end up being something I get into. But as of right now, I'm not.
Photo: Getty Images
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 2:31 pm
Phoenix Coyotes fourth-line forward Paul Bissonnette has made a name of himself on Twitter (@BizNasty2point0), cracking the CBSSports.com Twitter 140 earlier this month. He's funny, a touch crude and all in all a great follow.
He showed exactly what makes him popular in the Twittersphere when he spread his reach into the fashion television world this week. He was a guest on the Marilyn Denis Show to discuss women's trends that men hate. And apparently "spitting some game" at one of the models.
Watch the highlights of the segment here (video via TSN.ca).
Leave it to Bissonnette to turn a subject that would normally bore 95 percent of hockey fans into a must-watch. Bissonnette's takes on such things as the maxi dress and other "in" fashions for women are honest and, as expected, pretty hysterical. Not surprisingly, he admits to having a discussion with his buddy Sean Avery before coming on as Avery is a known fashion enthusiast when he isn't forcing the NHL to make rules in his (dis)honor.
Bissonnette's awkward moment comes near the end of the segment when the host asks him who his seventh grade teacher was and he gets it wrong, only to find out his teacher is in the studio audience.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 20, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: July 21, 2011 11:59 am
Make that two arbitrations hearings avoided.
On the first day of scheduled arbitration hearings, the first two players reached last-minute deals to avoid the hearing process.
It started with the Coyotes and Lauri Korpikoski coming to terms on a two-year deal that Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet says is for $3.6 million. The left wing had a breakout season with the Coyotes last season, scoring 19 goals and posting 21 assists to go with a plus-17, all significantly surpassing his totals from his first two seasons in the NHL.
"We are happy to avoid arbitration and finalize a contract," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said.
A short while later, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced they avoided arbitration with Teddy Purcell, also on a two-year contract. Kypreos says that deal is worth $4.725 million. Purcell also enjoyed a breakout year last year with the Lightning, posting career highs with 17 goals and 34 assists, establishing himself as a solid second-line option for the Bolts. He also contributed in the postseason with 17 points (6-11) in 18 games.
It's not much of a surprise deals were done without the help of an intermediary. We explained yesterday how hard all the sides try to avoid actually making it to the arbitration hearing as it can be poisonous for future relations between the team and player.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 19, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 4:55 pm
Nobody wants to go to arbitration. The next time you hear any involved party is excited for arbitration battles will be the first.
It can be dangerous. It can certainly be ugly. It is always contentious.
The nature of the best resembles part of Festivus with the Airing of Grievances. At least there are no Feats of Strength as an arbiter lays down the decision instead of the sides fighting it out. The involved parties are forced to justify their stance in the negotiations, resulting in teams putting down their own player. Not a desirable stance to have to take.
Because of the combative nature, the process has been known to cause strains in relationships between teams and players. It's exactly why teams try to avoid the process more fervently than someone looks to evade root canals.
For that reason arbitration meetings often times don't happen. It's amazing how much easier it is to strike a deal with a deadline speeding up the negotiations. Always worked that way for me to get book reports done in school; nothing like a deadline of two days away to read the first page.
So it is highly likely only a few of the names headed to arbitration will actually have their hearing. That goes for the two biggest names on the list, Shea Weber and Zach Parise. The Predators and Devils respectively will try and hammer out contracts before an arbiter gets to set the reward. This has happened to three players in the last day as the Jets avoided a hearing with Blake Wheeler, the Ducks with Andrew Cogliano and the Sabres with Andrej Sekera, all reaching new deals.
But there will still be hearings. Teddy Purcell and the Lightning will have their case heard tomorrow, the first day, along with Lauri Korpikovski and the Coyotes. The next case will be Brandon Dubinsky and the Rangers. All of those hearings should happen with the potential for the Rangers/Dubinsky battle to be a tough one seeing as the sides still seem to be pretty far apart.
Or you will have the cases where teams just walk away from the award. It happened last year with Clarke MacArthur in Atlanta and more notably with Antti Niemi in Chicago, the teams electing to let the player find another team than pay them the determined amount. It will happen again this year to a Blackhawks player as the team has already said it cannot afford to bring Chris Campoli back.
Last year in total five players got as far as the arbitration hearing. Three of those players' awards were not matched. Teams are only allowed to walk away in a situation where the player filed for arbitration and the reward is $1.7 million or more. Anything less than that and the player stays put, regardless.
Obviously the most interesting cases are those of Parise and Weber. They are both franchise players and are due for substantial raises. The case of Weber is particularly appealing since the signing of Drew Doughty in Los Angeles seems to be waiting for the precedent set by the future Weber contract.
With all of that as the background, here's a list of all the players who, as of now, are scheduled for their turns in the ol' testy tango of arbitration. Expect names to disappear from this list faster than Michael J. Fox in family photos.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Antti Niemi, Arbitration, Blake Comeau, Brandon Dubinsky, Brian Stubits, Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Campoli, Clarke MacArthur, Jannik Hansen, Josh Gorges, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Fraser, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Callahan, Shea Weber, Tampa Bay Lightning, Teddy Purcell, Vancouver Canucks, Zach Parise
Posted on: July 13, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: July 13, 2011 10:52 am
By Brian Stubits
IN THE Kings' COURT: Negotiations between the Kings and restricted free agent Drew Doughty are progressing a little slower than Doughty's side would like. One of his agents, Don Meehan, says he hasn't heard from the Kings (FOXSportsWest) since June 23. At first he understood the Kings had a draft, free agency and the trade market to take up their time, but that's all taken care of. A large hold up is the lack of a precedent, which could come in Shea Weber's arbitration. Until then, it would probably be best for Doughty and company to relax.
DESERT REALITY: Now here's a bad sign for the future of the Coyotes in Arizona. City of Glendale mayor Elaine Scruggs recently had an interview with a Phoenix television station in which she acknowledged it's time the city contemplates life without the Coyotes in town and in the city's arena. She also addresses the Matthew Hulsizer failed bid, basically blaming the local watchdog group the Goldwater Institute and its threat of a lawsuit for scaring away the NHL on a Hulsizer marriage.
BUYING THE Blues: The Coyotes aren't the only team up for sale at the moment. The St. Louis Blues are also on the market, but don't seem to be having quite the same troubles as they are in Arizona. The company in charge of the sale says "Things are definitely heating up" (STLtoday.com) in the search for an owner. Could that perhaps be because of the aforementioned Hulsizer entering the picture?
PENNER IS MIGHTIER: After his less-than inspiring stint with the Kings for the end of last season, Dustin Penner was informed by head coach Terry Murray that he would have to drop a few pounds and get in better shape. A horse at 6'4 and 245 pounds, Penner is apparently taking it serious, citing motivation of the Kings' potential (frozenroyalty.net) and the new additions to help spur him into shape.
DEAD ON: The art of the goalie mask design isn't dead, but it looks pretty damn awesome when it goes dead. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason shared the design of his cage for next year and while one half is somewhat routine (featuring the look of the Ohio state flag) the other half is anything but normal. Just have a look (Puck Daddy) at the Evil Dead 2-inspired motif.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 3:54 pm
By Adam Gretz
With the increase to the NHL's salary cap this offseason (all the way up to $64.3 million), there was also an increase in the salary floor, which is now up to $48.3 million, a number that is higher than the actual cap was during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. As of Monday, there were still seven teams that needed to reach the floor, according to CapGeek, the best salary cap resource anywhere on the Internet.
Here are the seven teams, the amount of money they need to spend to reach the floor (via CapGeek), and the number of spots they have remaining to fill out a 23-man roster:
The problem for some of these teams will be spending the necessary money on players that can actually make a positive impact, or an impact that will equal the financial commitment. What started as a weak free agent class has already been picked over, and whatever meat is remaining on the bones consists of ... well, let's just say less-than-attractive options.
The real winners in this are the second-, third- and fourth-tier free agents -- as well as the restricted free agents -- that could snag a larger salary than they normally would because these clubs have to spend a predetermined amount of money. Or the team that has an albatross contract it desperately wants to rid itself of (kind of like how the Chicago Blackhawks managed to find a taker -- the Florida Panthers -- in Brian Campbell's contract).
Moving past the Islanders, the Predators still have the most money to spend but also have the biggest restricted free agent remaining of the aforementioned clubs in defenseman Shea Weber. He's scheduled for an arbitration hearing in early August and will almost surely take up a large chunk of the remaining $7 million the Nashville front office is required to spend.
The Predators had a restricted free agency issue centered on the timing of their qualifying offers and needed to work out deals with Cal O'Reilly, Matt Halischuk, Chris Mueller, Nick Spaling and leading goal-scorer Sergei Kostitsyn. They managed to work out contracts with all of them last week to avoid any further complications, including the possibility the players could be granted unrestricted free agency. Those five contracts also helped narrow the gap to the salary floor.
Carolina is less than a $1 million away from reaching the floor with two spots to fill, which should be done with ease. Pretty much any two additions, even if they're minor league roster-filler, will jump the Hurricanes over the threshold, and the team still has to work out a deal with restricted free agent Brandon Sutter, who scored 14 goals a year ago.
The Jets should also have little trouble reaching the minimum as they still have restricted free agents Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian and Ben Maxwell. The Coyotes and Avalanche have restricted free agents of their own to sign, while the Senators have to look outside the organization for its remaining $1.2 million.
Posted on: July 5, 2011 4:56 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 5:48 pm
By Adam Gretz
Only two defensemen recorded more points than the 59 that Keith Yandle produced this past season for the Phoenix Coyotes -- Lubomir Visnovsky of the Anaheim Ducks with 68 and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom with 62.
On Tuesday, Yandle was rewarded for his production by signing a five-year contract worth a reported $26.25 million. The deal was originally reported by a rather unlikely source: It came from the Twitter feed of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney and was later confirmed by the team.
Said general manager Don Maloney in a statement released by the the team, "Keith is an elite player and one of the game's best young defenseman. He is an important part of our future and we are thrilled to sign him to a long-term contract."
Yandle, who turns 25 in early September, has seen his offensive production increase (both the raw numbers and the per-game and per-minute averages) nearly every year that he's been in the NHL and is one of the better up-and-coming young defenseman in the league. Under the leadership of coach Dave Tippett, the Coyotes have played a system the past two seasons that asks their defensemen to jump into the play and produce offensively, and none of them has been better than Yandle.
He plays a significant role on the Coyotes power play, but he's also managed to produce in even-strength situations, recording 32 points in 2010-11, which trailed only Matt Carle and Visnovsky across the league.
In what was a breakout year in the desert, Yandle finished fifth in the Norris Trophy voting (given to the NHL's best defenseman) and averaged more than 24 minutes of ice-time per game throughout the regular season. He's averaged nearly a point-per-game in the playoffs over the past two years.
His new deal will result in an average annual salary of $5.3 million and will leave the Coyotes with $18 million in cap space for this season.