The Coyotes have been particularly aggressive when it comes to handing out contract extensions in recent months. Since April, the team has handed out five, the most recent of which coming earlier this week with defenseman Jakob Chychrun who signed a six-year deal upon his return to the lineup. Speaking with reporters, including Matt Layman of Arizona Sports, GM John Chayka provided the rationale for this strategy:
“We’re getting some players in place now that we think are going to continue to develop and evolve and be elite players in the NHL. Now we can go about building out our roster. I think the easiest thing to do in this situation is to wait and play it out and see what happens, and then if a lot of these guys come along as we hope and expect, then ultimately the way the league’s structured, you have to start making some trade-offs.
“We want to try to avoid that scenario, especially with our key, core players moving forward in our mind. So trying to be proactive and trying to get ahead of that curve and if we can do that, accurately forecast, and hopefully we get some luck along the way, we can keep this group together for the long term.”
While Arizona has been a team that has typically been towards the bottom of the league in payroll spending (though not necessarily in terms of cap hit), that’s something that’s going to change in the very near future. With those recent extensions, they already have over $60MM in salary commitments (and over $67MM on the salary cap) committed to just 15 players. As a result, their player budget is going have to be higher than it has been in recent years.
In terms of players whose contracts are expiring this season, Chychrun was the last significant player they had to get locked up. Young wingers Brendan Perlini and Lawson Crouse are set to become restricted free agents in July but both players are likely to receive short-term bridge deals instead of a long-term pact.
Looking ahead one year, center Clayton Keller is atop the list of players that will be on expiring contracts. Given their recent approach, it’s fair to suggest that they’ll be very aggressive in pursuing a long-term extension with him which can be done as early as July 1, 2019. Center Alex Galchenyuk will also be eligible to sign an extension at that time in advance of his UFA eligibility the following summer.
New deals for those two will put even more money on the books so it’s understandable that Chayka is hoping to get some contracts done that will eventually prove to be below-market deals by their expiration and is willing to take some risk to do so. It’s clear that he believes that the core of this team is one that they can have long-term success with and if these extensions are any indication, the team is prepared to spend to keep it intact. In doing so, they won’t be near the bottom of the league in spending much longer.