The Phoenix Coyotes' murky ownership situation impacts the team in so many ways, but perhaps none more frustrating for general manager Don Maloney than how he's able to build his team for the future.
Unfortunately for Coyotes fans, there is nothing new to report on contract talks with Smith because there is nothing new to report on the ownership front. As we noted at the start of the season, the two are tied because of the money and term that would be involved in such a deal. While it's understandable that fans would like to see it get done, it's also naïve to expect it without some sort of resolution on the ownership front.
“Our thought is to let the season play out,” Maloney said. “Until our ownership is resolved, we're going to table Mike's contract and hope things work out later.”
Is that a partial negotiating ploy? Unlikely. There is always posturing by both sides when it's deal time, but it has been apparent to anyone who follows this team that Smith's deal has been tied to the ownership situation. And there is little chance of Smith agreeing to a value deal for the Coyotes that might satisfy the NHL.
Smith is in the last year of his two-year $4 million deal.
He was a catalyst for Phoenix's success last season, posting career-best numbers with 38 wins, a .930 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against average and eight shutouts.
Smith's numbers have fallen off from last season through 14 games this year, which is admittedly a small sample size, but are closer to Smith's career averages.
Though Maloney told Morgan he thought the team needed to play better in front of Smith, our Adam Gretz detailed the goalie's potential to regress this year.
The ownership situation isn't good for anyone. As Morgan noted, the lack of an owner is also delaying Phoenix from re-upping both Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett. However, delaying negotiations to the end of the season could give Phoenix a better idea of Smith's actual value going forward. As Gretz documented, Smith's performance from last season is likely unsustainable.
Smith's value probably won't dramatically drop due to a relatively shallow unrestricted free agent pool this offseason among goaltenders, but if his numbers remain closer to his career averages this season, his leverage for a big-money, long-term deal won't be as great as it is right now.