Coyotes knee-deep in goaltending search
Approaching a third NHL season without an owner still seems like enough of a challenge. Needing to replace an MVP goalie on top of that? If there's a GM we feel for, it is Phoenix's Don Maloney.
But last season's GM of the Year isn't moping around; he is knee-deep in exploring his options in goal. Having traded away the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia during the Cup finals after the Russian netminder asked for the moon, Maloney is now making his goalie shopping list and checking it twice.
"There are several different options that we're exploring, from young up-and-comers that are going to cost assets to acquire, to searching the UFA market to see who might be the right fit for us, to talking to some NHL teams," Maloney told ESPN.com. "There's three or four goaltenders that we might have interest in where the team in question might want to make a change. So really, the factors we're looking at are acquisition cost, contract term, contract amount and age of the player.
"That's all being evaluated and discussed. At some point, we'll make a decision; at some point, we will have a goalie here. We're just not there yet in regards to which way we want to go here."
That's no slight to veteran backup Jason LaBarbera, but the Coyotes need a starter.
"We like LaBarbera," Maloney said. "We think he can play more than he did the last couple of seasons, so we're looking for the right fit."
Tomas Vokoun will be the headliner in the UFA class if Bryzgalov signs with the Flyers. Other pending UFAs include Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Ty Conklin, Mike Smith, Pascal Leclaire, Ray Emery and Brian Boucher, among others. Maybe youngsters such as Jonathan Bernier in Los Angeles or Cory Schneider in Vancouver could be made available for trade. And don't forget, Evgeni Nabokov is definitely on the trade block from the New York Islanders.
"There are quality goaltenders that may or may not hit the marketplace," Maloney said. "There are a couple of up-and-comers that are knocking at the door to be a No. 1. There are some young goalies that look like very good prospects. ... And there's not a ton of teams, I guess, that are looking for a No. 1. Obviously you've got Colorado and depending what happens in Florida. I think our situation is unique because we play a good defensive style and, touch wood, we've made the playoffs for a couple of years. I think we're an attractive spot for a goalie to land."
And despite their ownership issues, the Coyotes have money to spend.
"We've worked out a budget with the NHL and obviously we had budgeted a big number -- at least in my opinion it was a big number -- for Bryzgalov," Maloney said. "Realistically, we won't spend as much now [on a goalie], so we'll invest it somewhere else."
The Coyotes have a bevy of free agents, including UFAs Ed Jovanovski, Radim Vrbata, Vernon Fiddler and Eric Belanger, as well as RFAs Keith Yandle, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Lauri Korpikoski. And none of them appear close to signing.
"I'm not having a lot of luck, to be honest," Maloney said. "Nothing that I would consider close as we sit here today."
Some of them will hit the market July 1 to see what's out there and maybe check back with Phoenix, including the veteran blueliner Jovanovski.
"Realistically, I think Jovo hits the open market to see where his market value is," Maloney said. "We have a good relationship. If there's a fit for us, we'll explore it, but it probably won't be before July 1."
Belanger is another player who appears set to hit the market.
"We'd love to sign him to what we paid him last year [$750,000], but I'm sure he's looking for more," Maloney said. "So I think he's got to get into the market place, determine his value, and I'm sure we'll have another discussion."
Of course, going to July 1 means there may not be a job waiting for you back in Phoenix.
"I always caution, 'You can take a look, but we can always take a look, too,'" Maloney said.
Whatever the case, Maloney is headed to Minnesota with the intention of being busy.
"I think a lot of us are going to be active this week to see if there are any deals to help ourselves, but I don't know how it's going to play out," Maloney said. "We have some holes we'd like to fill. We'd like to acquire some players who can play for us next year. We're searching hard right now to improve."