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GM Chayka: Coyotes have had ‘preliminary discussions’ with RFAs

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 11, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that the team has already had what he called “preliminary discussions” with “the majority if not all of” its pending restricted free agents.

Contract discussions have netted one extension already, as the Coyotes announced a two-year deal with forward Conor Garland on Wednesday that will keep the 22-year-old under contract through the 2020-2021 season.

But the team has other soon-to-be RFAs, which include forwards Nick Cousins, Lawson Crouse, Josh Archibald and Nick Schmaltz, as well as defenseman Ilya Lyubuskin and others who aren’t currently on the NHL roster (most notably goaltender Adin Hill).

“There’s no rush. We have some preliminary discussions — have had some preliminary discussions with the majority if not all of our RFAs,” Chayka said. “I think just if it makes sense and it’s something that makes sense for both sides, we’re willing to engage and work on something.

“It’s not top of mind right now. The focus is playing games and trying to make a playoff push. It’s not about contract negotiations. It just so happens that we had some discussions, there was commonality in those discussions and we’re able to work towards a deal that makes sense for Conor and makes sense for us.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the deal for Garland was for two years at an average annual value of $775,000 per year. The contract gives Arizona cost-certainty at less than a million dollars per year for a player who is tied for second on the Coyotes with 12 goals this season in only 36 games played.

Now that Garland has signed, those other five RFAs will remain some of the most important questions to be answered before the start of the 2019-20 season. Crouse and Schmaltz are both coming off of their entry-level contracts, and the latter of whom scored five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 17 games with the Coyotes before an injury ended his season.

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