With the ownership situation still in flux this past summer, general manager Don Maloney was forced to make shrewd and rather inexpensive moves to bolster the Phoenix Coyotes’ roster.
While the team didn’t land any big names during the offseason, the additions of Steve Sullivan (38-year-old left winger, who has played in parts of 18 seasons), David Moss (six-year veteran, who can play center and right wing) and Nick Johnson (27-year-old right winger, who has 31 points in 87 career games with the Penguins and Wild) should fit in nicely with the Coyotes’ desire to play gritty, disciplined hockey.
Although Dave Tippett has only had a few days to watch the trio strut their stuff on the ice, Phoenix’s head coach gave rave reviews of all three in his scouting report to the media Monday.
“Sullivan kind of looks like Ray Whitney out there a little bit,” Tippett said. “He’s the same kind of player, has good quickness, good vision, high skill, so we will try him in the same spot as where had Whits last year.”
In 2012, the 40-year-old Whitney led the team with 77 points (24 goals and 53 assists) playing alongside Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal on Phoenix’s first line. The club, however, opted not to re-sign Whitney. He ultimately reached a two-year agreement with the Dallas Stars.
While Sullivan will be expected to produce offensively on the Coyotes’ top line, Moss was primarily brought in to be a bruiser and an occasional goal scorer along with Boyd Gordon, Lauri Korpikoski and Raffi Torres (when he returns from the eight games remaining on his suspension).
Moss was very injury prone for the better part of his time with the Calgary Flames and required ankle surgery in 2011-12. Still, Tippett views him as a necessary asset.
“He’s a big, heavy guy who goes up and down the wing, who has scored 20 goals in this league before,” said Tippett. “He’s one of those guys that’s a mucker, grinder but finds a way to get to the net.”
While Sullivan and Moss are proven veterans that will likely adapt rather easily to Tippett’s team-first philosophy, Johnson is a bit of a mystery. The former third-round pick has barely scratched the surface of his potential, having played in only one full season in the NHL.
“Johnson is an interesting player,” said Tippett. “He hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity in the NHL, but you watch the things he does out there, he’s an intelligent player that uses his big body well.
“I don’t know a lot about him, but from what I’ve seen here for a few days, he looks like he’s going to be a good fit for our team.”
With a 48-game season, the Coyotes’ newest pieces won’t have much time to get accumulated, but from the sound of it — and granted it’s only the first official day of training camp — Maloney may have once again found terrific bargains in free agency.