Second half of June will be busy for Coyotes

Jun 13, 2016, 1:22 PM | Updated: 4:04 pm
Arizona Coyotes' Max Domi (16) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with Brad Richardson...
Arizona Coyotes' Max Domi (16) celebrates his goal against the Edmonton Oilers with Brad Richardson, left, Tobias Rieder (8), of Germany, Shane Doan (19) and Alex Tanguay, right, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 4-2. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

I got an email from my boss upon my return from Ireland, noting that while I was gone “the Coyotes front was near-silent.” That’s a welcome switch from past vacations but it also means it’s going to be a busy final 2½ weeks of June.

We’ll have plenty of stories in the next 17 days, but here’s a primer of what’s on the horizon.

Naming the Tucson AHL affiliate

The Coyotes will unveil their new AHL team’s nickname at a press conference at the Tucson Civic Center on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

We have no plans to leak this information if we find out ahead of time. Some things are better left to suspense, but if the Coyotes do choose to resurrect the Roadrunners name, you should know that at least a couple of ex-Roadrunners fully support that move, including former ‘Runners goaltender Randy Exelby, who owns the Valley’s popular Behind the Mask pro shops for hockey equipment.

Naming an assistant GM

Normally, the hiring of an assistant GM doesn’t warrant major news but the Coyotes’ hire will have greater duties than most assistant GMs and will play a key role in shepherding inexperienced GM John Chayka through the early years of his tenure.

The Coyotes waited until the NHL playoffs had concluded because they wanted permission to talk to some executives whose teams were still active. We have mentioned some of the potential names and their Coyotes connections before, but here’s a refresher.

Aside from Stars assistant GM Les Jackson’s well-chronicled ties to coach Dave Tippett from their time together in Dallas, Pittsburgh assistant GM Billy Guerin played for Dallas while Tippett was the Stars’ coach from 2002-2006. Pittsburgh assistant GM Jason Botterill was a scout for Dallas in the 2006-07 season, and Tampa Bay senior adviser Tom Kurvers was once a scout and then the Coyotes director of player personnel.

Shane Doan’s contract extension

Arizona Sports reported last month that Doan would return for another season, and that Doan, agent Terry Bross and Coyotes GM John Chayka were working on a one-year deal with the idea of allowing Doan and the Coyotes to re-evaluate after each season.

Doan’s contract expires on June 30 and he can become an unrestricted free agent, but he told Arizona Sports late this season that he has no desire to play for any other club but Arizona.

The NHL schedule

The Coyotes should know their schedule next week, likely on June 20 or 21st — just before the NHL awards are announced in Las Vegas on June 22.

The NHL Draft

The Coyotes own four picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft June 24-25 in Buffalo, and eight picks overall. Arizona has a dire need for defensemen, both in its system and on the NHL roster, but it is also expected to address that need through trades.

Chayka has said the Coyotes will do their diligence and make calls about moving up and down, including possible trade scenarios for landing Arizona native Auston Matthews with the top overall pick owned by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Aside from defense, the Coyotes need better depth in goal and it never hurts to draft centers, given the importance of the position.

Here are the Coyotes draft picks with the round in parentheses.

No. 7 (1st)

No. 20 (1st from NYR).

No. 37 (2nd)

No. 53 (2nd, compensatory)

No. 68 (3rd)

No. 128 (5th)

No. 158 (6th)

No. 188 (7th)

Qualifying offers for restricted free agents

Qualifying offers for free agents are due on June 27, two days after the NHL Draft. The Coyotes have eight RFAs on their current roster, and five additional RFAs in their system, making for a busy time for the hockey operations staff, specifically Chayka, coach and executive vice president of hockey operations Dave Tippett, and assistant GM Chris O’Hearn.

The Coyotes are expected to tender qualifying offers to RFA forward Tobias Rieder, defensemen Connor Murphy, Michael Stone, Klas Dahlbeck and goalie Louis Domingue.

Defensemen Kevin Connauton and Jarred Tinordi are less certain. The Coyotes are not expected to tender an offer to RFA forward Sergei Plotnikov. Forward Jiri Sekac signed a one-year agreement with AK Bars Kazan of the KHL.

Here are the RFAs in the minor-league system: forwards Tyler Gaudet, Christian Thomas, Stefan Fournier; defenseman Philip Samuelsson; and goaltender Niklas Treutle.

Free agency

Free agency opens on July 1 but the Coyotes will have a firm handle on their plans before the stroke of midnight on June 30. Arizona hopes to be active, both to land a top-four defenseman or two and to shore up scoring on the wing. Arizona could also use a proven top goalie for its minor league system, But Domingue’s progress gives them more security at the backup position.

The Coyotes won’t just be looking at NHL free agents. They will also scour the college free-agent ranks and the European free-agent ranks, both weaknesses of the club during Don Maloney’s tenure as GM.

Aside from Doan, Arizona has seven unrestricted free agents on its roster: forwards Boyd Gordon, Alex Tanguay, Viktor Tikhonov, Kyle Chipchura, Erick Selleck; defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and goalie Anders Lindback.

The minor-league UFAs are forwards Craig Cunningham, Jordan Szwarz, Brendan Shinnimin and Steve Downie; defensemen Dylan Reese and Derek Smith.

An arena announcement

Team president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said last month that he would be shocked if the team didn’t make an announcement before the NHL Draft. That’s 11 days from now, but the Coyotes have taken the wise approach of not commenting further until an announcement is warranted.

Arizona’s arena lease agreement with the City of Glendale expires after the 2016-17 season. It’s unclear whether Glendale would offer a short-term lease while a new arena is built elsewhere, but given the team’s mercurial relationship with the city’s leadership, it would not be surprising if Glendale declined, although AEG would certainly have some say. However that plays out, the Coyotes need clarity on the arena this month for their sponsors and for free agents they hope to attract to the Valley.

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