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‘Yotes Notes: Coyotes, Knights will compete for fans in northwest Arizona

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Last week, we reported that the Vegas Golden Knights’ television broadcast territory with Root Sports includes a portion of northwest Arizona.

This initially caught some within the Coyotes organization by surprise, but the overlap in broadcast territories is fairly common in the NHL. The New York and southern California markets have multiple teams, and there is overlap in other markets within close proximity to another, including Columbus and Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey and others.

The Coyotes still have broadcast rights in all of Arizona (and all of New Mexico), but they will share Mohave County with the Knights. Mohave County, with a population of about 200,000, is in the very northwest corner of Arizona and borders both Nevada and California. Its principal cities are Lake Havasu City (52,527 people), Bullhead City (39,540) and Kingman (28,068).

The NHL considers the city in which a team plays and a 50-mile radius around the city that team’s sphere of influence for over-the-air broadcasts, but cable creates a far broader footprint, thereby creating overlap territories. Root Sports still must find providers to broadcast Knights games in northwest Arizona.

FLAT CAP?

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at the Stanley Cup Final that the salary cap could remain essentially flat next season if that is what the NHLPA wants. That would mean a $73 million cap, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the number could rise to $77 million if the players choose to use the 5 percent escalator. Doing the latter would also mean increasing players’ escrow, which has been an ongoing player complaint.

If the cap remains flat, Coyotes GM John Chayka acknowledged it could potentially help his team even more this summer. Few teams have much flexibility under the cap, and the expansion draft is complicating matters even more.

“We have flexibility for sure,” Chayka said.

Per capfriendly.com, the Coyotes currently have $25,874,724 in cap space for next season, the third most in the league behind the expansion Vegas Golden Knights and the Carolina Hurricanes. Arizona has no significantly priced unrestricted free agents it hopes to re-sign (Radim Vrbata is a possibility), and only two or three restricted free agents it is likely to retain.

COMBINE UNDERWAY

The NHL Scouting Combine began at KeyBank Center and HarborCenter in Buffalo on Monday with 104 players in attendance from North America and Europe. Like the NFL Scouting Combine, the NHL Scouting Combine is designed to provide a physical and medical assessment of players before the 2017 NHL Draft, which will be held at United Center in Chicago from June 23-24.

“I keep reading this quote over and over: ‘Talent sets the floor but character sets the selection,'” Coyotes GM John Chayka said. “We can measure the physical components but there is this huge variable of character and who a person is so it’s very important to us to get to know people.

“It’s all just input into a decision. Are we going to change our draft list dramatically based on those conversations? Probably not, but tweaking matters. We’re prioritizing players from a large group for the draft so this allows us to get a good sense of them.”

Each NHL team has the opportunity for 1-on-1 interviews with the prospects, this week. Medical exams conclude on Thursday, and eight of the 12 fitness tests will take place Saturday.

LOOSE PUCKS

— Forward Tobias Rieder underwent successful surgery on the ankle he injured in a game against Russia at the World Championship earlier this month. His rehabilitation time is targeted at 8-12 weeks with a full recovery expected. The Coyotes do not expect Rieder to miss any of training camp.

— Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome came up one win short of the Memorial Cup when Erie lost to host Windsor, 4-3, on Monday in the championship game. Strome led the tournament with seven goals and 11 points (the latter was tied with teammate Taylor Raddysh).

— Chayka has said he doesn’t expect the Coyotes to be major players in free agency, but he does hope to consummate trades. The team’s greatest needs are center, right defense and right wing.

One player to keep an eye on is Nashville forward Pontus Aberg, who will be an RFA at the end of this season. Nashville probably won’t be able to protect him so they may want to get something in return. The Coyotes have interest.

The 6-foot, 198-pound, 23-year-old Aberg, was the Predators’ second-round pick in 2012. He’s fast, he’s skilled and he could be ready for a larger role. Aberg has a gaudy 56.28 Corsi For percentage this postseason. He has a goal and four points in the postseason, while averaging 12:17 of ice time.

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