Saturday, June 23, 2012
Coyotes thrilled about return of Michalek
By Pierre LeBrun
PITTSBURGH -- The Phoenix Coyotes have lost several players over the past few years because of their financial predicament and ownership issues, but none bothered them more than when Zbynek Michalek left town in the summer of 2010.
Nothing has stung more to GM Don Maloney. I’ve never seen him more irate about any player leaving. Coach Dave Tippett has lamented his loss ever since, feeling Michalek’s defensive abilities were never really replaced in his absence.
So when the opportunity came Friday to bring him back to Phoenix, the Coyotes jumped on it.
They had competition: The Penguins were also in talks with the Nashville Predators. But in the end, Phoenix won out with a package consisting of prospect Harrison Ruopp (a third-round pick last year) plus a third-round pick this year (81st) and minor league goalie Marc Cheverie.
"We’ve reacquired Zbynek Michalek, who we know very well [and] we didn’t want to lose a couple of years ago," said Maloney. "He was a very important player with us in regards our culture, how we wanted to play. I know at the time there was ironically uncertainty with the franchise, which seems to be a recurring theme, but he was ... assistant captain, didn’t want to lose him. [We] know who he is. So we were thrilled. We ... look at Z playing with a player like Oliver Ekman-Larsson as being a terrific combo matchup against the best players in the West and we’re just thrilled to have him back."
The day began with the Coyotes taking several calls from teams about offensive blueliner Keith Yandle, but they never pulled the trigger on that deal. The feeling was that it would have to take a real special deal -- we’re talking a No. 1 center -- to get Yandle. It never came close to materializing on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Penguins cleared up about $6 million in salary-cap space by dealing both Michalek ($4 million cap hit) and Jordan Staal ($4 million cap hit) and acquiring Brandon Sutter ($2 million cap hit).
Zach Parise anyone? You have to imagine the Penguins might join the long list of suitors come July 1 for the UFA star winger. Imagine Parise and Sidney Crosby on one line while James Neal continues to do his thing with Evgeni Malkin on the other?
And I give Penguins GM Ray Shero a ton of credit. It was crushing to have Jordan Staal turn down a 10-year contract extension, not to mention have it leak out on the eve of the draft his team was hosting. But Shero quickly turned around the next day and made the first call to Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford to get the ball rolling. He got good value in return for Staal, a player he was clearly going to lose to free agency a year from now anyway. The New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks also made serious inquiries on Staal, the Rangers of course having Jordan’s brother Marc Staal as their carrot, but the Hurricanes won out with the best offer.
By the way, don’t be the least surprised if two years from now -- when Marc Staal is one year away from unrestricted free agency -- that the Hurricanes come calling on the Rangers with a trade offer. You can take that to the bank.
The Rangers continue in their search for their first-line winger. The process with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Rick Nash is growing to be a bit frustrating for the Blueshirts. They don’t want to wait until the first week of July as the Jackets are contemplating perhaps doing. In the meantime, the Rangers also have Ducks winger Bobby Ryan on their radar. It’s a solid option if the Nash deal doesn’t progress.
The Flyers made a deal with the Jackets on Friday when they sent goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus. But sources on both sides insist that doesn’t eliminate Philadelphia from the Nash bidding either. Likewise, the Ottawa Senators will continue to keep tabs on the Nash situation.
In the end, the one deal some people believed was possible never came close to happening. Edmonton kept its first overall pick and selected Nail Yakupov. An Oilers source said nothing ever came close to making them even think at all about moving the pick.