Current NHL teams are built from the goalie out. The Coyotes have a great backstop in Mike Smith and a competent backup in Jason LaBarbera. When the goalie ties a team record for wins and several shutouts, it is a team win. Starting at the blue line. Keeping the forwards from getting position in the crease and blocking shots are the requirements of a modern day defenseman. As Paul Coffey said, “Every General Manager wants a puck moving defenseman at the trade deadline. They want scoring. Why not ask the puck movers to play a little more defense and help out your goalie?”
The Coyote defensive players did not have a good playoff series. Other than Derek putting it past Quick from the red line, scoring was at a minimum. OEL was able to move the puck and make plays. That was due to his incredible skating agility and quickness. LA showed the lack of speed with their pressure forecheck against the defense. The Coyotes have to get quicker.
The Coyotes have three unrestricted defensemen that need to be discussed. Adrian Aucoin, Michal Rozsival, and Kurt Sauer.
1) Adrian Aucoin
- 38 year old (will be 39 on Tuesday) 6’2″ 215 lb right handed player fifth round draftee who has had a decorated career. He started out as a Nepean Raiders of the CJHL, went to Boston University for one season. From there, he was selected to the Canadian National team, played in the World Juniors Championship and then won Gold as a member of the Canadian Olympic team in 1994. He went into the Canucks organization for seven years (played for Team Canada again at the World Championships). He became a member of the Lightning in 2000 and then to the Islanders where he stayed until the lockout. He played in Sweden for MODO in 2004, and then it was on to Captain the Blackhawks. From there, Calgary for two seasons and he has been a loyal Coyote for the past three seasons.
- Oakie has played in 1072 games in which he scored 121 goals to go along with 274 assists. Two season ago, he had a run as an stoppable shootout specialist where he won 10 games in a row thanks to his slick moves and deadly accurate shot. There is some great video of him in Calgary taking 100 mph slap shots from the point against a Calgary team employee who doesn’t even react to the puck flying by his head. Because he didn’t see it.
- Adrian was so old school that he was the last player in the NHL to still use wooden sticks. He switched to the composite because the sticks were no longer made in Canada but outsourced to China and the weight was inconsistent between sticks.
- Adrian has been invaluable as a leader in the locker room and on the ice. Between he and Derek Morris, they have contributed to the maturation and development of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larson.
- He is coming off a 3 year at 2 million per season contract.
2) Michal Roszival
- Michal was a fifth round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1996 draft. The 33 year old native of the Czech Republic is a 6’1″212 lbs right handed stay at home defenseman.
- After being drafted, he played for the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL until he was made the Penguins in 1999 and was there for the next 4 years. He then went back to the Czech Republic during the lockout. When he came back to the NHL, he was now with the Rangers. Michal played in two World Championships (2007 and 2009) during his time with the Rangers. During the 2010 season, he was traded to the Coyotes.
- Roszival has played in 756 NHL games where he has tallied 64 goals to go along with 196 assists.
- He has been in the positive for his career in the (+/-) category and takes some penalties but has reduced it from his early days as a Ranger.
- Roszival is coming off a $5 million per year contract.
3) Kurt Sauer
- Kurt is a 31 year old 6’4″ 225lb lefty that was selected in the 3rd round of the 2000 draft by the Colorado Avalanche.
- He broke into the NHL with Anaheim in 2002 where he played 80 games. The following year, he was traded to Colorado where he stayed until 2008 when he signed with Phoenix.
- He has played in 357 career games where he has scored 5 goals and 28 assists. Kurt was a defensive specialist, using his big body to lock down the opposing forwards and move bodies from the crease.
- Kurt has not played since October 7 2009 due to post-concussion syndrome in which he played in 1 game that season.
- His contract paid him 1.75 million the past 3 seasons.
On first glance, the wise play is to consider the age of Adrian, the cost of Roszival, and the injury to Kurt and not tender an offer to them. The game has picked up in speed and size the past few years. If you have lost a one-half a second off your speed, the forward is by you and the puck is headed toward the back of the net. The grind of being on the west coast is harder on the body than the east coast. Travel across time zones is almost constant thanks to Arizona not changing its clock to stay in the Pacific. On the east, you mainly head north and south. Travel is harder, recovery is longer, and days off are needed. Genetic freaks like Nic Lindstrom are once-in-a-generation. Kurt is too much of a risk to sign him, even if it was a two-way contract for league minimum. He has a family and young boys who need a dad who can be a dad, not end up with early-onset dementia. Roszival is being paid what the Rangers could afford to pay him. The Coyotes cannot take on a contract for a player like Roszival.
The blue line is going to have the pairing of Derek and Keith, OEL and Zbynek Michalek, and Klesla will most likely play along side Gormley. The seventh and eight d-man will be between Mike Stone, Chris Summers, or Max Goncharov. Add 12 dressed forwards, 2 goalies, and 1 scratched forward, you are at your 23 player limit. Dress 6 d, 2 goalies, and 12 forwards to get to your 20 player limit and you have your team on the ice with 3 in the press box.
It is with heavy heart that if I were the general manager, I would let each player enter free agency and hope they find a team that will allow them to continue their NHL career. By not making a move, you put their combined dollar amount of 8.75 million per season back into the team coffers to spend on the restricted free agents and to give to Shane, Ray, and Taylor.