GLENDALE, Ariz. — Before the Arizona Coyotes fired general manager Don Maloney in April, he said in his season postmortem that he would like to sign center Martin Hanzal to a contract extension before the 2016-17 season began. That thinking may have changed under new general manager John Chayka.
“If there was something that made sense, we would probably take a closer look at that because Marty’s been a good player for us,” Chayka said Thursday. “But maybe it’s not a bad thing to get into the season and see how things play out.”
Hanzal, 29, is entering the final year of a five-year, $15.5 million deal that will pay him $3.5 million this season with a cap hit of $3.1 million. He set career highs with 28 assists and 41 points last season, but he also missed 18 games and hasn’t played more than 65 games in a full season since 2009-10.
Chayka had discussions with Hanzal’s representatives soon after he took over, but a busy summer in his first season as GM has pushed Hanzal talks to the backburner and Chayka said nothing is currently active on that front.
Hanzal’s history of back problems and his 30th birthday (in February) will clearly be factors in the Coyotes’ assessment of his future, but following the release of veteran center Antoine Vermette, the Coyotes have only Hanzal and Brad Richardson under contract at the position. They have prospects Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Ryan MacInnis, Laurent Dauphin and Tyler Gaudet all vying for roster spots.
While it is still possible the Coyotes could move Hanzal at the NHL trade deadline next spring, they have a need for a veteran presence at the position now, so it wouldn’t make sense to trade him before the season unless they planned to acquire another NHL center.
Coyotes co-owner and president of hockey operations Gary Drummond will host his annual Hawg-a-Rama party this weekend at his fully functioning farm in Regina, Saskatchewan. Many members of the Coyotes ownership and management teams are expected to attend, including president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc, Chayka and coach Dave Tippett.
LeBlanc said the event raises money for University of Regina athletics and Regina Minor football.
“Gary has quite the spot,” LeBlanc said. “They put up a big outdoor concert venue, he has a fully functioning saloon on site and a big car museum.”
Chayka, who arrived in Regina on Thursday, said Drummond regularly books well-known country music acts.
“It’s kind of a last-ditch bash before we get going on the season again,” Chayka said.
Drummond said 12,000 to 13,000 people typically turn out on Saturday.
“It’s a real good small-town community deal where many people pitch in to help out,” Drummond said. “We will give $100,000 to our local university basketball program and $250,000 to Regina Minor Football this year. I guess I’m basically a big kid because it’s still, after 12 years, the highlight of my summer.”
The Coyotes signed assistant coach Jim Playfair to a multi-year contract extension on Tuesday. Chayka said the thinking was simple with Playfair, who coaches the Coyotes defensemen.
“I think we’ve got two head coaches on our staff and with Tip working with me now on some management duties, Jimmy continues to play an integral role,” Chayka said. “It’s obvious that he cares a ton about his defensemen and he’s gotten guys to buy into the nuances of defending at the National Hockey League level.
“It’s a very difficult position to play and there’s not that many detailed defensive teachers. We feel we have one of them so we wanted to lock him up long term.”
— There is nothing new to report on stalled contract negotiations between restricted free agent forward Tobias Rieder and the Coyotes. Rieder’s agent, Darren Ferris, is in Slovakia this week for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup (U-18 Junior World Cup).
— In case you were wondering, the Coyotes are not serious players in the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. The Harvard star and 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner will become a free agent on July 15. He is reportedly talking with several teams including Buffalo, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, New Jersey and the New York Rangers. Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round (66th overall) in 2012, but he informed the Predators in March that he would explore free agency.