GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes goalie coach Jon Elkin will return for another season, GM John Chayka confirmed on Wednesday. Elkin finally got around to signing a one-year deal last week that has been in the works since late May, but hadn’t been finalized due to both sides’ busy schedules.
Elkin joined the coaching staff last season after longtime goalie coach and executive Sean Burke left the organization. Elkin and Coyotes starting goalie Mike Smith have been working together since Smith was 12 years old, so the move made sense, but Elkin has also worked with both of the team’s AHL goalies (Adin Hill and Justin Peters) at his camp in Toronto, and he worked with Coyotes backup Louis Domingue last season.
Earlier this summer, the Coyotes also re-signed assistants Jim Playfair, Newell Brown and Steve Peters.
CAMP ROSTER SET?
Coyotes GM John Chayka said he is always on the lookout for ways to improve the team, but aside from re-signing restricted free agent forward Tobias Rieder, Chayka acknowledged Wednesday that the players currently on the team’s expanded roster will likely comprise the training camp roster.
“At this point, I think it would be reasonable to suggest that would be the case,” Chayka said. “There is still some work to be done for certain teams in certain situations, but these things can take time and a lot of teams are content with where their roster is right now so my guess is this would be our team going into camp.”
Chayka said with the World Cup of Hockey set to begin, other discussions have quieted down and the Coyotes are mostly focused on planning training camp.
Right wing prospect Nick Merkley has been cleared for contact and team activities. Chayka said he expects Merkley to be ready for rookie camp, which begins Sept. 16 at Gila River Arena.
“He gets lost in the shuffle with all the prospects we have, but he looks really good to me,” Chayka said. “He has hockey smarts and he’s a competitive player that makes a lot of good plays. I expect if he’s not here with us he will have a great year in juniors.”
Last season, the 2015 first-round pick (30th overall) suffered what then-GM Don Maloney said was a collarbone injury on a hit by Los Angeles Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid early in a rookie game.
Then in February, Merkley was finishing a check for Kelowna against Spokane in the Western Hockey League when his skate caught in the ice and his knee twisted. Three days later, an MRI revealed a completely torn ACL, ending his season and necessitating surgery, then rehab.
The Coyotes selected Merkley with the pick they acquired from Chicago (along with defenseman Klas Dahlbeck) for Antoine Vermette at the 2015 trade deadline. Merkley finished sixth in WHL scoring that season with 20 goals and 90 points for Kelowna. In 43 games last season, he had 17 goals and 48 points.
In other news, Chayka said defenseman Michael Stone, who has resumed skating, still has not been cleared for contact. Chayka isn’t certain when that will happen or if Stone will be ready for the start of the season, which opens Oct. 15. With only two weeks left until the start of training camp, it seems unlikely Stone will be able to fully participate at the start of camp.
Stone was injured March 26 game against the Flyers and had surgery to repair his left ACL and MCL in April. The minimum rehab time was estimated at six months, but Chayka said the medical staff has not set a timeline yet for his return.
— TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Wednesday that several teams have expressed interest in signing free agent forward Kris Versteeg to a professional tryout (PTO). Chayka acknowledged that the Coyotes were one of those teams, but right now, it appears that Versteeg is still hopeful of signing a regular contract with a team. In 550 career NHL games, Versteeg, 30, has 131 goals and 313 points. He was a member of two Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship teams in 2010 and 2015.
— Gila River Arena installed its ice on Tuesday. You can watch a time-lapse video of the process at this link.
— Friday is Coyotes night when the Diamondbacks host the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field. Arizona captain Shane Doan and goalie Mike Smith will take part in batting practice and Doan, a huge fantasy baseball fan, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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