Nick Bjugstad Joins the Coyotes as the Team “Loads up” on the First day of Free Agency

Nick Bjugstad signs a 1-year contract to join the Coyotes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Nick Bjugstad signs a 1-year contract to join the Coyotes. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Arizona Coyotes kicked off their free agent shopping yesterday and with that comes the official start to the next NHL season. There were some very interesting trades and signings throughout the league. By far the strangest signing was Johnny Gaudreau going to Columbus on a seven-year contract worth $68.25 million, carrying an average annual value of $9.75 million. I honestly believed he was heading to New Jersey or to the New York Islanders.

I can’t wait to hear his deciding factors. Have fun in Ohio.

The winners after day one of free agency were the Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, and Seattle Kraken. Ottawa cleaned up, trading for Alex DeBrincat, goalie Cam Talbot, and signing center Claude Giroux. The Senators should be a really good team this season. Carolina acquired defenseman Brent Burns, and forward Max Pacioretty.

The Seattle Kraken took steps forward through the draft and free agency. When Shane Wright slipped down to number four, the Kraken got a steal. They also took RW Jagger Firkus, and Defenseman Ty Nelson. When free agency started the team signed Andre Burakovsky, Justin Schultz, and goalie Martin Jones.

Jones was a player that I really wanted to see join the Coyotes. Bummer that we couldn’t make that happen.

The Coyotes were not completely silent yesterday, “loading up” on players meant to fill out the remaining roster spots. One of the biggest needs was addressed with the signing of Nick Bjugstad. The team needed depth at center and to add size, they did just that with this signing. Bjugstad is a former Mr. Hockey Award winner (given to the top high school hockey player in Minnesota) and is big, physical, tough, and can win face-offs. He is an 11 year veteran so his leadership and locker room presence will be helpful with the younger players. Also, he can score. Expect somewhere between 18-25 goals from him this season.

This is a player I was really hoping the team would go after, so this signing made my day. At some point this season expect to see an ‘A’ on Bjugstad’s jersey. Do not expect him to log majority of his time on the third or fourth lines like he did with the Wild.

Bill Armstrong has plans for Nick.

“We just felt like this guy has an ability to get us 25 goals in a year and if we put him in the right situations, he has that ability to score. I don’t like it sometimes when he’s on that third or fourth line. When you put him up in the order and put him on the power play, he can do some damage. He’ll have to execute and produce in that situation, but he’s going to get an opportunity here,” Armstrong said.

The team got a steal with his 1-year/ $900,000 contract.

Fans are going to love this guy.

The team did not go after one of the bigger named veteran goalies like myself and many others had expected. Instead, they went after Jon Gillies with a 1-year, 2-way contract. I am not excited about this transaction and hope that the team still has plans to add some more depth at the goalie position. Last season the crease looked more like a circus carousel until Karel Vejmelka locked it down. This is easily the biggest team need and the brass has not really addressed this. I hope that Gillies pans out, similar to Scott Wedgewood. Both goalies played for New Jersey and have not really had their shot at being an NHL starter. I wish the team would have kept Wedgewood, but I am very happy for him down in Dallas, with his new contract and pads/helmet that match his team’s colors.

The Coyotes were much more active than any experts really expected them to be. Defense was probably the lowest on their list of needs but the team felt that they could always use more depth and brought in Troy Stecher (I like this guy) and Josh Brown via free agency. The ‘Yotes then acquired Patrik Nemeth and two future second-round draft picks from the New York Rangers for Ty Emberson. These moves do add depth at right defense and as an 82 game season rolls on, they will need these guys.

Lastly, the team brought in former Coyote Laurent Dauphin to add more depth at center.

The team did not pull the trigger on acquiring left wing James van Riemsdyk like most experts believed would happen. Nemeth was their “bad contract” trade. This move works out well as the team is on the hook for only $2.5 million for two more seasons, and was able to get valuable draft picks.

Experts across the Valley had the Coyotes remaining pretty silent today and they actually were one of the busier teams. The team brought in seven players and acquired two second round draft picks. Not bad.

Today the Coyotes got bigger, tougher, and took a small step in the right direction. Bill Armstrong wanted to get bigger, and we did that. The team still needs to sort out the situation in net. This is only day one of the new NHL season so stay tuned.

Happy Howlin’!