Anthony Duclair agrees to one-year deal with Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Anthony Duclair and the Coyotes agreed on a one-year deal for $1.2 million for the restricted free-agent right winger on Sunday.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka said on a conference call that the Coyotes offered Duclair and agent Kent Hughes three different contract options with varying term and average annual value. The dollar amount was lower on the longer-term deals so Duclair chose the one-year option.
“I just wanted to prove myself with this one-year deal,” said Duclair, who is still in Montreal but will arrive in Arizona on Friday. “Obviously, last season was a little rough for myself. It was a good learning experience but at the same time, I just wanted to prove this year that I can play at an elite level like I did my rookie season and hopefully have a better contract next summer.”
Duclair had little leverage in contract negotiations after a five-goal, 15-point sophomore NHL season that resulted in his demotion to Tucson of the American Hockey League. He had even less leverage after that demotion failed to produce results — just one goal and eight points in 16 games with the Roadrunners — but negotiations continued until 11 days before training camp is set to open.
“It’s one of those things. You’ve got a first-year RFA and they don’t have arb(itration) rights,” Chayka said. “Not too long ago, almost half the teams in the league had one (RFA). For us, we kind of wanted to present the player with some different options and allow him to make a decision of what he felt was best for him and his career.”
The Coyotes acquired Duclair in a trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers and brought defenseman John Moore and a pair of draft picks in return in March 2015. The Rangers also got defenseman Chris Summers and a 2016 fourth-round pick.
Duclair has much to prove to first-year coach Rick Tocchet, who has promised every player will arrive at camp with a “clean slate.” Duclair was one of just 12 remaining NHL restricted free agents who had not signed, and the lowest 2016-17 point-producer of the seven forwards on that list.
Duclair, 22, scored 20 goals in his rookie season. That production and the fact that he was not paired with the best of playmakers last season may have been his arguments for holding out for more money, but he was destined for a regression last year.
He scored on an unsustainable 19 percent of his shots in 2015-16. The average shooting percentage for NHL forwards was 10.58 percent that season and 10.75 percent last season. Duclair shot just 6.6 percent last season. That regression was an overcompensation, so a fair assessment of his scoring ability is likely somewhere in between, but he has not established himself yet as a consistent NHL scorer and his struggles last season were pervasive in his game. He acknowledged they impacted his emotional state.
“It’s been an awful year for myself and I take full responsibility for that,” he said last season after his demotion. “The chances are there but the puck is not going in for me right now. Confidence is a big factor and when the puck isn’t going in, confidence goes down a bit.”
Duclair should have better options at center this season, playing alongside either Derek Stepan, a more seasoned Christian Dvorak or perhaps Dylan Strome. Those are the kinds of playmakers the Coyotes believe Duclair needs because he is what former coach Dave Tippett called a complementary player.
“That will be a huge boost for us,” said Duclair, who was Stepan’s teammate in New York. “I was pretty excited when we acquired Derek. If I ever have a chance to play with him I’d be really excited. He’s really a good two-way centerman that can win draws and he’s really calm with the puck.”
The Coyotes would like to see Duclair develop the type of game where he carries the puck more though the neutral zone and is not so reliant on his center or a playmaking wing like Max Domi, but that is not his forte. His strength is his speed getting up and down the wing and his shot.
“He’s a pretty unique player,” Chayka said. “He’s a goal scorer but he’s got a touch with the puck and he can make plays. It’s more about using his skating to be more involved and that’s Rick Tocchet’s system.
“If he can use his skating to put pressure on defenses, turn pucks over and if that leads to him spending more time in the offensive zone with talented players, they can set him up and he can put them in the net. It’s just a holistic approach. You’ve got to be committed to 200 feet of the ice and Tocchet is going to push him to do that.”
Chayka believes playing for Tocchet will also aid Duclair’s mental game.
“I think he needed a breath of fresh air as much as anybody on our team,” Chayka said.