The Phoenix Coyotes have a pretty tall task in front of them this summer. Their list of important things includes a new contract for their general manager, one for their head coach, and a boatload of free agents, both of the restricted and unrestricted variety. One of those has already been handled, as GM Don Maloney received a new contract.
With the guy who puts the team on the ice now locked up, the Coyotes can focus on their next two important tasks: the head coach and free agency. When it comes to the latter, one player stands above all others in being a priority for this club. That player is goaltender Mike Smith.
Smith has saved his career with the Coyotes. A career backup, he has thrived in the system of Dave Tippett and turned into a top tier goaltender in this league. He’s going to see a pretty hefty raise from his current $2 million cap hit. Whether or not that new contract will come from the Coyotes is the main question.
For the Coyotes, Smith is a franchise goaltender. He’s a marketable player for a club that really lacks one overall, outside of captain Shane Doan. If he hits the market as a free agent in July, there will be no shortage of teams lining up for him. Which means getting him locked up before then is a priority.
Easier said than done. If the Coyotes don’t have stable ownership at that point, Smith could leave. The ownership stability is the main sticking point for whether or not Smith wants to return. He’s already made it clear that he won’t break the bank to return to Phoenix, and that the ownership is his main concern.
Luckily, that situation has been moving along for the Coyotes. League and city officials met last week. This has a chance to be the final step in getting a new owner for the club, or it could mean the end of the club in Phoenix. Which could mean the end of Mike Smith’s time with the team.
Ownership is the main issue holding up Mike Smith from re-signing with the team. If it’s settled in a reasonable amount of time, Smith could easily be back. If not, and this drags on into July or simply ends in the Coyotes without an owner and the threat of relocation coming to fruition, it could be time to say goodbye to Smith.