PHILADELPHIA — When the Coyotes return home from their five-game eastern road trip, forward Mikkel Boedker likely won’t be with them. Two sources familiar with the situation were asked Thursday if they thought there was any chance the impending unrestricted free agent would re-sign with the team before Monday’s trade deadline. They both gave one-word answers: “No.”
How did the Coyotes reach this point with a player that president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc termed a crucial part of the organization’s future in July? It’s a complex answer.
Two-plus seasons ago, the Coyotes could have signed Boedker to a five-year deal at an average annual value of $3.25 million. That deal would look pretty good today, but without a proven body of work and with the team in transition to a new ownership, general manager Don Maloney wasn’t willing to commit to that amount.
Last summer when he was coming off an injury-shortened, 19-goal season in his last year of restricted free agency, Boedker was weighing two offers from the Coyotes, but opted for a one-year deal, signaling that he might be ready to test the open market when he could become an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Boedker’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet, believed that Boedker could have commanded $5 million per season on the open market, and when Boedker became eligible to sign a new deal with the Coyotes in January, Bousquet was asked why Boedker would sign a new deal instead of waiting six more months to test his true worth.
“That’s a great question — that is the million dollar question,” Bousquet said. “As you know, in the past, there’s been some unrest over the contract. When we signed a couple years ago, we signed the night before training camp. Obviously last year, we negotiated for a long time before we had to file (for salary arbitration) and we couldn’t agree on anything so we did a one-year deal.”
“If an offer comes in from the Coyotes that’s a great offer, he does like it there and he likes the players and fans and coaches so that might lead him to re-sign. But if it’s another situation where we can’t agree on a fair deal then in six months, he’s free and we can see exactly what he’s worth.”
Both sides have reached that stalemate. Two sources said the Coyotes made Boedker an offer with an average annual value of $5.5 million over five years. Boedker’s representation rejected that offer and TSN’s Darren Dreger reported this week that the Coyotes had pulled the offer, signaling their intent to trade him.
If that was in fact Arizona’s offer, Boedker is playing a risky game. While he deserves the right to test his worth after three less-than-successful previous negotiations with the Coyotes, it’s possible he may be walking away from the best offer he will get.
The Canadian dollar continues to struggle (.74 U.S. dollars as of Friday) and multiple NHL executives have said that will likely have a chilling effect on the salary cap, which only saw a marginal rise last season. Last summer, a number of free agents including Matt Beleskey and Antoine Vermette made far less money than they expected and there is a growing belief that last summer was not an anomaly.
Less than three days remain before the NHL trade deadline on Monday at 1 p.m. Arizona time. The challenge for Maloney is to secure a fair deal to avoid bad optics on what was supposed to be a key piece of the team’s future. Boedker hasn’t helped his trade value with just one goal and seven assists since Jan. 1 — a stretch of 24 games.
Multiple NHL sources said earlier this week that they didn’t think Maloney could get a first-round pick for Boedker, but that was before Chicago chose to part with top prospect Marko Dano, a 2016 first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick to acquire top-six wing Andrew Ladd along with defenseman Jay Harrison and forward Matt Fraser. Chicago’s deal may have reset the market and helped the Coyotes if other Stanley Cup contenders believe they must match the Blackhawks’ aggressiveness.
Whatever the final price, Boedker’s departure is all but certain, meaning the Coyotes’ top picks from 2004 (Blake Wheeler), 2006 (Peter Mueller), 2007 (Kyle Turris), 2008 (Boedker) and 2010 (Brandon Gormley) will have all moved on.