The Phoenix Coyotes made a somewhat surprising move over the weekend when they signed goaltender Mike Smith to a new contract, just a few days before he was set to hit free agency. It’s not a surprise that he is returning to the city where his career has been saved, but the cost and the timing of the deal are both questionable.
There’s no doubt that Smith has proven to be a valuable part of this organization, but the organization has actually proven more useful for Smith. A career backup, Smith has thrived in his time with the Coyotes, proving to be among the league’s better starters when put into Dave Tippett‘s system.
The deal is for six years and will pay Smith $5.5 million a season. He was the top goaltender on the market had he hit free agency, so he was likely going to get about that in terms of the dollars regardless. But the years are questionable for a goaltender that is still relatively unproven, as are some of the terms of the deal, which includes a no-trade clause.
Then there’s the matter of the timing. The Coyotes are set to watch the city of Glendale head to a vote within the next couple days, which will decide whether or not they will relocate. Given their currently shaky financial situation, the timing of the new contract for Smith is curious.
Smith regressed in his second season with the Coyotes, as many had expected, but he was still solid nonetheless. In his two seasons with the Coyotes, he has a .920 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. He helped lead the Coyotes to their deepest playoff run in franchise history in 2011-12 before struggling with injuries a bit in 2013.
It’s hard to argue against the fact that the Coyotes did overpay Smith, but it wouldn’t have been entirely surprising to see him get that with another team. With the Coyotes, he has the best chance of living up to that, as he’s been terrific in his time playing with Tippett and goaltending coach Sean Burke.
That doesn’t make the timing of it any less questionable.