When the Phoenix Coyotes failed to sign goaltender Mike Smith to an extension before the 2013 season started, it opened the door for Smith to go out and have a fantastic season to earn a bigger payday. Unfortunately, he was held back by injuries and struggled at times when healthy to record only 15 wins as the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs. While there is little doubt he is still the best option for the team in net and the Coyotes should make every effort to re-sign him, they should now be able to do so at a much lower rate than they would have last summer.
Smith’s cap hit this season was $2 million, still well below what he’s worth, and the leverage he will have is knowing the Coyotes really don’t have a better option. Jason LaBarbera was 3-6-2 as Smith’s backup this season, and young Chad Johnson was 2-0-2. Johnson lacks experience but seemed better suited to jump into the backup role in the future, as he also posted a 1.22 goals-against average.
The 2011-12 season saw Smith go 38-18-10 with a 2.21 goals-against average before leading the Coyotes to the Western Conference Finals. This season he still managed to record five shutouts, but saw his goals-against average jump to 2.54 and his save percentage drop from .930 to .912. This season showed that when Smith is great, he’s great, but also showed that when he struggles he struggles mightily. The frequent injuries will be a concern for the Coyotes at the bargaining table too, which might put Smith somewhere in the $4-million-per-season range. That’s certainly not a bad bargain for what Smith can bring in a full season if healthy, but it definitely isn’t the $5-6 million he would have earned on a new deal last summer.