The Coyotes tendered a qualifying offer to restricted free-agent forward Tobias Rieder two weeks ago. He still has not accepted the offer. Rieder’s agent, Darren Ferris, offered his perspective on the current contract impasse in a phone conversation on Monday.
“You have a whole new group there now so maybe it’s going to take some time but we’re not even close to where we need to be,” he said of talks with the Coyotes’ restructured hockey operations department. “I’m not sure how things are structured with Arizona, what it’s going to take to get a deal or who’s giving permission, but they seem to be saying they’ll hold tight on their current offer.”
Ferris said the Coyotes are offering something above the qualifying offer and they have been open to both long-term and short-term contracts, but “nothing close” to what he feels his client is worth. The 23-year-old German, who will play for Team Europe at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, set career highs for goals (14) and assists (23) while averaging 17:18 of ice time in 82 games last season.
Rieder’s three-year, $2.8 million entry-level contract expired on July 1. He made $920,000 last season and was due a qualifying offer with a 10 percent increase in salary. Ferris feels Toronto’s Nazem Kadri ($4.5 million AAV) is a fair comparable given his similar production level last season (45 points) and Rieder’s superior analytics in terms of possession. He also cited recently signed free agent Jamie McGinn (three years, $10 million), but the Coyotes have other comparables in mind.
“I know the talks has been characterized as hitting a snag, but they’re in the exact same spot they have been for a while now,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said Monday. “Obviously, he’d prefer to play under different terms and we’re not trying to take advantage of the fact that he’s a restricted free agent without arbitration eligibility, but you make the fairest offer you think you can based off comparables and other factors.”
Because Rieder is coming off an entry-level deal, he is ineligible for salary arbitration, limiting his options. He can hold out until a deal is reached or he can play outside the NHL.
Ferris said Monday that he is exploring European and KHL options on Rieder’s behalf, although his preference is still to play in the NHL.
“Right now, I’m working with KHL and European teams that are interested and I know can get him more money,” Ferris said. “It’s an option but it’s not one we’ve decided on.”
Qualifying offers expire July 15, but negotiations can continue.
If an RFA does not sign by Dec. 1, he is ineligible to play in that season. Here’s a quick update on two other key Coyotes RFAs.
The NHL Players Association set an Aug. 4 hearing date for the arbitration case between defenseman Michael Stone and the Coyotes. Stone filed for arbitration on July 5.
When a player elects salary arbitration, the team typically picks a term of either one or two years, but because Stone, 26, can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, an arbitrator would award a one-year contract.
Stone, who is coming off a three-year, $3.45 million deal that paid him $1.45 million last season, has some strong evidence in his favor. In 75 games last season, he had six goals and a career-high 36 points. He also ranked first on the team in blocked shots (143) and second in ice time (22:27).
On the flip side, Stone is rehabbing after surgery to repair a torn left ACL and MCL suffered March 26 in a collision with Philadelphia’s Michael Raffl. The Coyotes estimated his recovery time at a minimum of six months, which would mean he wouldn’t be ready before the end of September. The season opener is Oct. 15.
“With Stony coming off a significant knee injury, we’re just trying to find a deal that makes sense for everyone,” Chayka said. “As we lead up to the (arbitration) hearing date, we still have the opportunity to try and avoid that.”
Both sides characterized the talks as positive, with a deal likely coming soon. Murphy’s three-year, $3.4 million entry-level deal expired on July 1. He scored six goals and added 11 assists while averaging 20:30 of ice time last season, playing much of it alongside Oliver Ekman-Larsson on the team’s top defensive pairing.
“He’s a player we want involved in our organization for a long time,” Chayka said. “Those discussions have been very good.”
— Chayka said the team is still looking to add an assistant general manager with managerial experience, but there is no rush in making that hire. “These are decisions that have impact for years and years, and either cost or benefit you millions of dollars, depending on performance,” he said. “It’s about getting the right person at the right time and for the right fit rather than rushing for the sake of doing it.”
— Chayka said assistant GM for hockey operations Chris O’Hearn is handling Michael Stone’s arbitration case.
— Chayka said the Coyotes continue to pursue trades for existing NHL players to improve their current roster, adding that the team is “very active on that front.”
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