GLENDALE – The NHL free agent signing period begins Friday and Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney will likely be a busy man as he and his staff reshape the team for the 2011-12 season.
With Ilya Bryzgalov – the team’s MVP last season – now gone, Maloney’s attention will be focused on finding a new starting goaltender.
The Coyotes re-signed backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera earlier this month. While Maloney has said LaBarbera would likely play more games in 2011-12, he also said LaBarbera would remain the backup.
“Clearly, the goaltending position is our No. 1 priority this off-season and we have three or four options we are looking at,” Maloney said.
Second on Maloney’s list is adding one or more top-2 line forwards, preferably centers. Brad Richards is the cream of this crop, and the deal he receives will set the bar for the contracts the other centers below him on the talent list will be seeking.
The Coyotes, of course, still are owned by the NHL and operating under a budget created by League officials. The good news is Maloney has worked under the identical situation the past two seasons and was able to build playoff teams in both of those seasons. Here’s another plus: Not having to pay Bryzgalov a huge salary has freed up money to offer other free agents.
“We’re just going to do basically what we’ve done the past two years and that is look for value and find position fits and character fits,” Maloney said. “We will look for the best values and hopefully make the right choices.”
When approaching free agents Maloney will pitch not only salary, but Head Coach Dave Tippett’s team-first approach and the Valley.
“We have a great arena and it’s in the nicest city in the National Hockey League, in my opinion,” Maloney said.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes continue to negotiate with their restricted free agents. Qualifying offers have been made to Keith Yandle, Lauri Korpikoski, Kyle Turris, Viktor Tikhonov, Mikkel Boedker, Brett MacLean, Jonas Ahnelov, Matt Watkins and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.
For information on upcoming Phoenix Coyotes games, please visit http://coyotes.nhl.com