The Phoenix Coyotes couldn’t be happier to have a former fan favorite and game-changing defenseman back in the fold.
On the Friday, the Coyotes announced they had re-acquired Zbynek Michalek from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Harrison Ruopp, goaltender Marc Cheverie and a 2012 third-round pick.
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said the team had trouble replacing Michalek’s presence on the blue line, ever since he left Phoenix in 2010 due to financial concerns surrounding the club.
“We never wanted to lose him but our outgoing ownership saga kind of took him out of the bidding for us,” Tippett said. “It was an opportunity where Pittsburgh had him available; they have some young players coming in. I think it was just a very good fit for him and us.”
Michalek has proven he can be a difference-maker late in games, an attribute Tippett said the Coyotes relish.
“If you are looking for a player to play last minute defending a lead, a lot of situations that our team gets in, he plays a lot of those situations so just a great fit on our team and we are certainly happy to have him back,” Tippett said.
The Czech defenseman, who played five years with the Coyotes from 2005-2010, signed a five-year, $20 million contract with Pittsburgh after the 2009-2010 seasons and will be under the Coyotes control for the foreseeable future.
Tippett said Michalek considers Phoenix home and that he is pleased to come back to the team who gave him his start.
“Phoenix gave him an opportunity,” Tippett explained. “A lot of times that team that gives you that first opportunity becomes dear to you.
“He’s a huge addition to our team. We’re very fortunate [GM Don Maloney] was able to pull off the deal to get him back.”
Michalek scored two goals and compiled 11 assists in 62 games for the Penguins last season.
The Coyotes have upgraded a tremendously solid defense further with just one acquisition. It is Tippett’s hope the team can now add the pieces necessary to bolster their offensive production next season.
“We feel like we have great depth in our defense core, hopefully we can get a couple of our free agents locked up here upfront and keep building this team to where we think we can be a contender,” Tippett said.
Arizona Sports 620’s Craig Grialou contributed to this story