The Phoenix Coyotes made some big splashes in the free agent market as they added a new starting goalie and toughness while losing some key players from last years playoff run.
The Coyotes went into the free agency looking to fill the whole that Ilya Bryzgalov left in the depth chart. General Manager Don Maloney decided that former Lightening goaltender Mike Smith was the man for the job. Smith had a 2.9 GAA and a .899 save percentage last year with Tampa Bay, but found himself in a back up role as Dwayne Roloson stole the show late in the year. Smith did play in three playoff games last season, starting one and coming in relief in the other two. It is unclear if Smith will be the answer in net the Coyotes are looking for. Bryzgalov has proven himself as a great regular season goalie, but shrinks in the playoffs. The Coyotes are hoping that Smith can have a break out year as he reunites with Dave Tippett whom he played for in Dallas.
The other big name free agent the Coyotes acquired on Friday was Raffi Torres from the Vancouver Canucks. Torres was just one game away from lifting the cup in Vancouver and was an important part of their cup run. Torres scored 14 goals and 15 assists last year, and had the game winning goal in game 1 of the stanley cup finals series against the Bruins. The main asset that Torres will bring to the Coyotes is grit and energy. Torres is a player that makes big hits and can change games with his energy on the ice. He isn’t the most gifted forward, but what he lacks in skill he more than makes up for in heart. It was important the Coyotes added Torres after the departure of Vernon Fiddler, who was a good third line energy player a year ago.
The Coyotes also added Boyd Gordon, formerly of the Washington Capitals, to their team. Gordon, a center, will not be a first line guy, but will be able to contribute quality minutes to a team that needs some toughness. Gordon will also help to fill the hole Vernon Fiddler left, especially on the penalty kill as last season he won 58% of his face-offs and is a big imposing body. Gordon isn’t the most skilled forward either, but he too will add toughness to a team that looked soft against Detroit in the playoffs.
The last player the Coyotes signed friday was center Alex Bolduc. Bolduc is a center who played last year with the Canucks. He was signed to a two-way minor league contract and will fill the hole Andrew Ebbett left.
The Coyotes also parted ways with Eric Belanger and former assistant captain Ed Jovanovski. Jovanovski decided to rejoin the Florida Panthers organization and Belanger will join the Edmonton Oilers.
Overall, the first day of free agency was a success for the Coyotes. They addressed their goaltending need by taking a chance on Mike Smith, but the payoff could be big. The additions of Torres and Gordon will add toughness and grit to a team that was flat and soft at times last year. The singings look good on paper, but only time will tell how this team will perform on the ice.