- After the announcement that the city of Tempe would not be housing the Arizona Coyotes, rumors immediately sprung about a possible relocation. In the press conference, Bettman reported that Ryan Smith, the current owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, has expressed interest in relocating the Coyotes to Salt Lake City (Tweet Link). Although this is considerable news, especially coming from the Commissioner, Bettman did express a strong desire for the Coyotes to remain in Arizona and says that the NHL is helping the franchise find locations in Phoenix.
Arizona Coyotes’ Laurent Dauphin Signs In Switzerland
Arizona Coyotes forward Laurent Dauphin has found a new team to play for, as he signed a one-year contract containing a club option for a second year with the Swiss National League’s HC Ambri-Piotta.
The 28-year-old 2013 second-round pick was in his third tour of duty with the Coyotes this past season, playing 48 games in the AHL and 21 in the NHL. Dauphin played very well in the AHL, notching 16 goals and 41 points, but his play in the NHL left much to be desired.
The high-energy pivot scored just one goal and no assists at the NHL level this season and failed to earn the trust of head coach Andre Tourigny, who played him sparingly.
It’s this disappointing run in the NHL that has likely paved the way for Dauphin’s departure overseas, where he’ll play in a European pro league for the first time in his career.
A longtime minor leaguer, Dauphin seemed to hit a turning point in his career during his time with the Montreal Canadiens in 2021-22.
As the Canadiens faced significant injuries and a nightmarish campaign, Dauphin emerged as a trusted option for head coach Martin St. Louis, who played Dauphin in a larger NHL role than he’d ever played before.
Dauphin responded well to that increased role, contributing four goals and 12 assists in 38 total games, including a slick penalty shot tally. We at PHR even acknowledged Dauphin’s improvement in our coverage of his signing in Arizona last summer, writing at the time that “it would be misleading to say anything other than Dauphin performed better than expected at the NHL level.”
It seemed as though Dauphin would potentially carve out a role as a depth NHL center, but it now seems that his time in Arizona has undone that progress. Now, he’ll head to Switzerland with the hope of serving as a top player for Ambri-Piotta, a club looking to have a bounce-back season after a disappointing 2022-23 campaign.
As he’ll still be just 29 at this time next season, the door is far from closed for Dauphin to make a return to an NHL organization, but he’ll need to have a good season overseas to keep it open.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Free Agent Focus: Arizona Coyotes
Free agency is now a little more than a month away and teams are looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several impact players set to hit the open market in July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Arizona Coyotes.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Christian Fischer – Fischer initially looked like a future top-six point producer for the Coyotes after being drafted early in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft. He scored 15 goals and 33 points in 79 games as a 20-year-old rookie in 2017-18. Unfortunately, he has not reached those totals again in his career, though he is coming off his second best offensive season. The 26 year old scored 13 goals and 27 points in 80 games and will now look for a bit of a raise.
At 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, Fischer brings size and a bit of physicality to the ice, which gives him a little more value than just his offense. Fischer is coming off a one-year contract with a $1.125MM cap hit which he signed after scoring five goals and ten points in 53 games in the 2021-22 season. After basically doubling his offensive output on a per-game basis, Fischer will likely look to double his salary as well and try to get a few years of term on his deal as well.
F Matias Maccelli – Maccelli had one of the quietest strong seasons in the NHL this year. A bit of an unknown in hockey circles, Maccelli put together a strong rookie season and earned some mentions in Calder Trophy talks. He was not one of the three finalists, but once the ballots are released, I’m sure he will be one of the next few players on the list.
The 22 year old Finnish forward was a fourth round pick of the Coyotes in 2019 and has a strong AHL season in 2021-22 but really broke out with the Coyotes this season. He scored 11 goals and 49 points in 64 games which put him third on the team in points. He is just coming off his entry-level contract so he does not have arbitration rights yet which does not give the player much leverage. However, his point total will give him some reason to ask for a big raise, though the team will likely look for a bridge deal to see if he can repeat his offensive output while keeping his restricted free agent status following his next contract. A two-year deal with a cap hit of $2MM could make sense for both sides.
F Jack McBain – McBain was a third round pick of the Minnesota Wild but signed with the Coyotes after a four-year NCAA career at Boston College. While he developed into a star player at the college level, he is still just finding his way in the NHL. The 23 year old just wrapped up his first full NHL season by scoring 12 goals and 26 points in 82 games.
He has now completed his two-year entry-level contract but he burned the first year by playing ten NHL games following his college season ending just over a year ago. That means he does not have a ton of pro experience and not a lot of reason to ask for a big raise. The Coyotes were willing to give the young player a full-time NHL role right out of college and he would be wise to re-sign at a cap hit around $1M to continue developing his game in the best league in the world.
G Connor Ingram – Ingram earned the backup role for the Coyotes and played well behind a team that was not the greatest defensively. He suited up for 27 games and while his 3.37 GAA does not look great, he had a decent .907 SV% while facing a high quality of shots against. He will look for a small raise on his $733k cap hit from the past three seasons.
Other RFAs: Jan Jenik, Nathan Smith, Cameron Crotty, Ivan Prosvetov, David Tendeck
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
F Laurent Dauphin – Dauphin has proven to be a capable scorer at the AHL level in his career, but has not broken through to show he is a full-time NHL player yet. He played 21 games with the Coyotes this season and had just one point. The 28-year-old center now has 17 points in 94 career NHL games, though he did score 41 points in 48 AHL games this season.
Dauphin will sign another two-way contract with some team at a league minimum NHL salary but is destined for waivers at the start of next season on his way to another strong AHL campaign.
F Brett Ritchie – One part of the infamous brother trade that sent Brett to Arizona and Nick to Calgary, this Ritchie could now hit the open market. He had eight goals and 13 points in 50 games split between the Flames and Coyotes last season and will now look to sign another league minimum two-way deal for the upcoming season.
D Connor Mackey – Also traded from Calgary to Arizona midseason, Mackey was a promising college free agent just a few years ago and could prove to be valuable depth for a team like the Coyotes next season. He is currently playing at the World Championships after scoring seven points in 30 NHL games and his 6-foot-2 frame allows him to defend his side of the ice. He is a bit of a late bloomer, signing out of college at 24, and he is likely looking for a short term deal at league minimum as well.
Other UFAs: Michael Carcone, Bokondji Imama, Steven Kampfer
Projected Cap Space
Cap space won’t be an issue for Arizona this summer. In fact, they are going to have to be aggressive to spend to the cap floor. They have $27MM in cap space and need to spend about $6MM just to reach the league’s minimum salary for next season. They have been stockpiling draft picks and prospects but do not look to be ready to contend just yet. They will need to sign a few free agents or take on another dead contract like they already have with Shea Weber, Bryan Little and Jakub Voracek just to eat up cap space next season.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.
Phoenix Suns Owner Mat Ishbia Expresses Interest In Coyotes
- If the Arizona Coyotes can’t make their reported secondary arena plan in Mesa come to fruition, PHNX Sports’ Greg Esposito says the team’s backup-backup plan could come in the form of Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia, who expressed interest in participating in discussions if the Coyotes were put up for sale. It’s likely the last remaining avenue that would keep the Coyotes in the region, although for now, it would put them back in the Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix that contains thousands of obstructed view seats for hockey.
List Of NHL Prospects Attending 2023 Memorial Cup
After the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts took home their respective league championships yesterday, the field for the 2023 Memorial Cup is set. They’ll be joined by two WHL teams – the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds and the host team Kamloops Blazers – on their quest to capture the pinnacle of North American junior hockey.
Pitting best against best at the U21 level from across the continent, the tournament also gives NHL-drafted prospects an early taste of high-pressure hockey on a larger stage than regular junior play. If you’re looking to see your favorite team’s prospects have big performances at this tournament, which runs from May 26 to June 4, we’re providing a comprehensive list of NHL-affiliated prospects attending the tournament.
There will be a new champion this year after last year’s winner, the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, lost to the Gatineau Olympiques in five games in their first-round series in the QMJHL playoffs. Chicago and Dallas lead the way with three representatives at the tournament, while nine teams (Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Tampa Bay) don’t have any prospects playing this year.
C Nathan Gaucher (Québec, 2022 22nd overall)
LD Olen Zellweger (Kamloops, 2021 34th overall)
RW Dylan Guenther (Seattle, 2021 9th overall)
LD Jérémy Langlois (Québec, 2022 94th overall)
RD Vsevolod Komarov (Québec, 2022 134th overall)
LW Lucas Ciona (Seattle, 2021 173rd overall)
C Justin Robidas (Québec, 2021 147th overall)
LD Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, 2022 7th overall)
LD Nolan Allan (Seattle, 2021 32nd overall)
C Colton Dach (Seattle, 2021 62nd overall)
Columbus Blue Jackets
LW James Malatesta (Québec, 2021 133rd overall)
C Logan Stankoven (Kamloops, 2021 47th overall)
RD Gavin White (Peterborough, 2022 115th overall)
RW Matthew Seminoff (Kamloops, 2022 179th overall)
Detroit Red Wings
LD Evan Nause (Québec, 2021 56th overall)
Los Angeles Kings
C Caedan Bankier (Kamloops, 2021 86th overall)
RD Kyle Masters (Kamloops, 2021 118th overall)
C Owen Beck (Peterborough, 2022 33rd overall)
C Jared Davidson (Seattle, 2022 130th overall)
LW Reid Schaefer (Seattle, 2022 32nd overall)
RD Luke Prokop (Seattle, 2020 73rd overall)
New Jersey Devils
RW Chase Stillman (Peterborough, 2021 29th overall)
New York Islanders
LW Daylan Kuefler (Kamloops, 2022 174th overall)
New York Rangers
LW Brennan Othmann (Peterborough, 2021 16th overall)
LD Brian Zanetti (Peterborough, 2021 110th overall)
C Jon-Randall Avon (Peterborough, undrafted)
San Jose Sharks
C Tucker Robertson (Peterborough, 2022 123rd overall)
St. Louis Blues
C Zachary Bolduc (Québec, 2021 17th overall)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
C Fraser Minten (Kamloops, 2022 38th overall)
C Connor Lockhart (Peterborough, 2021 178th overall)
Vegas Golden Knights
C Jordan Gustafson (Seattle, 2022 79th overall)
RW Jakub Demek (Kamloops, 2021 128th overall)
C Ryan Hofer (Kamloops, 2022 181st overall)
C Brad Lambert (Seattle, 2022 30th overall)
Snapshots: Coyotes, Penguins, Canucks
After the recent public referendum on a potential new arena for the Arizona Coyotes fell short last Tuesday, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont pitched the team to relocate its services to the American Northeast. Connecticut has not seen a professional team since the Hartford Whalers, who held a place in the NHL from 1979-1997, before moving to Raleigh, NC before the start of the 1997-98 season.
In an interview, Lamont said, “This is a great hockey state and a great hockey town,” Lamont said. “It’s evidenced by the passion we have for the Whalers going back years — still one of the best selling jerseys. I think we can guarantee them a very strong market right here, and a government that’s ready to come and be their partner.”
To throw cold water on the idea that the Coyotes may be relocating after the recent disappointment of not receiving a stadium, the CEO of the team, Xavier A. Gutierrez, confirmed to Arizona fans that the team is not for sale. For the time being, Arizona will continue its stay at Mullett Arena, originally home of the Arizona State Sun Devils.
- Pierre LeBrun of TSN reports that the Pittsburgh Penguins have finished their second round of interviews for their opening at General Manager. LeBrun indicates that Eric Tulsky, Dan MacKinnon, Steve Greeley, and Jason Karmanos have all had interviews up to this point. Although Kyle Dubas has indicated that it was Toronto Maple Leafs or bust for his future, the opening for General Manager of the Penguins may prove enticing as the offseason progresses. As far as potential candidates go, Tulsky and Dubas both show a much different trajectory for the Penguins organization, as both possess extensive knowledge of the analytical side of hockey.
- In an interview with Swedish writer, Ronnie Ronnkvist, General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Patrik Allvin, states that the team is looking to add help at center and the blue line for the upcoming 2023-24 NHL season. As Allvin states that the Canucks are looking for potential fits for their third-line center role, Lars Eller, Evan Rodrigues, and Nick Bjugstad all seem like ideal candidates.
Logan Cooley Returning To University Of Minnesota
Arizona Coyotes top prospect Logan Cooley will not be signing his entry-level contract this summer, as the University of Minnesota announced today that he’s returning to the school for his sophomore season.
After a standout rookie season in the Big 10 conference, finishing second in the entire NCAA in scoring behind 2023 draft prospect Adam Fantilli, many expected Cooley not only to sign with Arizona but play a prominent role there in 2023-24. Instead, the 2022 third-overall selection will try and build on those totals and shoot for a national championship with Minnesota, a feat they were only one goal away from achieving this season.
Cooley, a skilled and cerebral two-way center, will be a top-six pivot when he does opt to come to the NHL. It’s fair to speculate if the Coyotes’ lack of a concrete long-term solution to their arena issues played a role in Cooley deciding to push back his NHL debut by another year.
While there may be little left to achieve in his pre-NHL development, the NHL isn’t always everything for players, either. Cooley’s desire to win a national championship, as well as the lower-stakes environment of college hockey, are also likely factors in his choice.
Neither Cooley nor the Coyotes have commented on his decision publically.
Arizona Coyotes Considering Mesa Mall Site For Potential Arena
We have some clarity on the rumblings yesterday surrounding a Plan B for the Arizona Coyotes to remain in the Phoenix area. Per CBS 5 Phoenix’s Dennis Welch, the Coyotes have reached out to the City of Mesa to discuss a potential arena on land currently occupied by the soon-to-be-demolished Fiesta Mall.
If the plan does come to pass, it could finally be a sustainable long-term solution for the team in Arizona. It’s prime land located in the largest eastern suburb of Phoenix, in an area where most of the Coyotes’ fanbase is located.
However, as Welch notes, this arena proposal could be subject to the same processes, including a public vote, that failed to approve the team’s proposal for an arena and entertainment district in Tempe two nights ago. It’s a high-risk investment that would almost certainly require immediate relocation of the team if it falls through, given their struggles up to this point.
The Fiesta Mall, once the largest and busiest shopping center in Mesa, has been completely vacant since 2019. The land’s current owners submitted paperwork to move forward with demolishing the mall in March.
Any proposal for an arena will have to be completed and submitted quickly. The already financially struggling team has no long-term security, and the off-ice struggles will continue to hinder the team’s ability to attract talent and ice a competitive team until their arena situation is resolved.
While their 2023-24 home is secured, set to play another season at Arizona State University’s Mullett Arena, relocation remains a looming option past that if an approved proposal doesn’t materialize soon.
Prospect Emil Martinsen Lilleberg Signs Two-Year SHL Deal
- Coyotes prospect Emil Martinsen Lilleberg is on the move as Vaxjo of the SHL announced that they’ve signed the defenseman to a two-year contract. The 22-year-old was a fourth-round pick of the Coyotes (107th overall) back in 2021 and had three goals and eight assists in 46 games with IK Oskarshamn and is currently playing in his third straight World Championship with Norway. Drafted as a 20-year-old, Arizona only has Martinsen Lilleberg’s draft rights until June 1st so it appears that they will not be signing him based on this new agreement in Sweden.
Arizona Coyotes Expected To Remain In Tempe For 2023-24
The Arizona Coyotes are not expected to relocate ahead of the 2023-24 season, NHL deputy commissioner told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski today. The team’s long-term future remains undecided after Tempe voters failed to approve the team’s plan for a new arena and entertainment district in the city.
However, the tone surrounding the future of the team in Arizona seems more optimistic this afternoon than immediately after the Coyotes (and NHL) learned the results of the Tempe arena vote last night. Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo reaffirmed today the team’s preferred course of action is to stay in Arizona, while PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan reports “there is still a path forward for the Coyotes in Arizona.”
The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta adds the NHL remains in line with Coyotes ownership, preferring to keep the team in place, although the league is still open to considering relocation.
It’s unclear what that path is, nor is it apparent what’s changed in the last 24 hours to constitute the revived confidence of a long-term fix for the Coyotes’ off-ice issues. Still, it’s a sigh-of-relief moment for Coyotes fans and players, who were understandably devastated by last night’s news.
On-ice for Arizona, stability for next season this early in the process of finding a new long-term plan is great news. With a home confirmed, at least for next season, general manager Bill Armstrong should have a much easier time re-signing any pending free agents he chooses and potentially attracting free agents outside the organization looking for more playing time. The team is still years away from having a competitive core, but a small step forward should be expected next season as their young talent continues to develop.