- Cameron Crotty’s professional career was supposed to begin in Arizona’s system but he’ll have a detour in Norway first instead. Sparta Sarpsborg of the Eliteserien announced that they’ve added the defenseman on a loan agreement although he has yet to make it over there so it will be a little while before he debuts. The 21-year-old opted to turn pro with the Coyotes after spending three years at Boston University where Crotty had 10 goals and 17 over that span.
- The Coyotes are looking to bring back a familiar face as they are in talks with Shane Doan about a position in their organization, reports Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman (Twitter link). Doan spent his entire 21-year career with that franchise dating back to their original days in Winnipeg before retiring in 2017. He currently is working in the hockey operations department for the league.
It’s been talked about for quite some time. Martin Hanzal has been considering retirement for quite a while, but he finally decided to retire from professional hockey, according to Arizona Coyotes’ beat writer Craig Morgan. The 33-year-old Hanzal was a solid forward for many years with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes, but back injuries cut his career short. He finished his career scoring 127 goals, 338 points and 574 penalty minutes in 673 career NHL games.
“It’s a little bit of a relief because the last couple of years I wasn’t sure if I’d play another NHL game or be healthy again so now it’s official: I am retired from the NHL,” Hanzal said by phone. “If I was healthy, I would probably still be playing, but after three back surgeries and especially after the last one, I just can’t do it anymore. I was doing everything I could after this last one and it took me a year to get back on the ice. When I went to see the doctor again, it was either do another surgery or be done playing. Even the doctor said, ‘We’re not sure another surgery will help.’ I still have a long life ahead of me. I don’t want to do another surgery when it’s not 100 percent sure it will even help.”
Hanzal was a first-round pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005 (17th overall) and debuted with his team in 2007 and played 10 years for the franchise, who at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, served as a power forward, who gave the Coyotes’ much of their grit. After 10 years and with an expiring contract, the Coyotes decided to trade Hanzal at the trade deadline to Minnesota in 2017 for a slew of draft picks (which eventually netted Arizona defensemen Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Kevin Bahl – both since traded). Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to help much with Minnesota’s hope of a long playoff run as they were eliminated in five games that year. He then signed a three-year deal to sign with the Dallas Stars, but back issues allowed him only to appear in 45 games over that time before his contract ran out this past year.
Oct 19: The Coyotes have officially announced the two-year, one-way contract. Craig Morgan of AZ Coyotes Insider reports that the deal will carry an average annual value of $1MM. GM Bill Armstrong released a statement on the deal:
We are very pleased to sign Christian to a multi-year contract. Christian is a hard-working, power forward who is strong along the boards. He will add size and toughness to our forward group.
Oct 18: While today’s qualifying offer deadline came and went without a deal for Coyotes winger Christian Fischer, they were able to agree on one soon after. Craig Morgan of Arizona Coyotes Insider reports (Twitter link) that the two sides are in agreement on a two-year, one-way contract pending approval from the league in registering the deal. Financial terms are not yet known.
The 23-year-old was a second-round pick of Arizona (32nd overall) back in 2015 and made his NHL debut one year later while becoming a regular in 2017-18. That season turned out to be Fischer’s best so far as he had 15 goals and 18 assists in 79 games which made it look like he was well on his way to being a core player for the Coyotes.
Things haven’t gone anywhere near as well since then, however. His point total dipped to 18 in his sophomore season and he only managed half of that in 2019-20, collecting just six goals and three assists in 56 games while being a somewhat frequent healthy scratch. Accordingly, the possibility of Fischer simply accepting his qualifier looked like a legitimate possibility.
Instead, it appears the two sides will settle on a bit more security although the price tag on it shouldn’t be much higher than his $874,125 qualifying offer. The Coyotes already project to be over the Upper Limit of the salary cap and while Marian Hossa is eligible for LTIR once again in the final year of his contract, Arizona won’t want to spend all of that money already.
With the deadline for players to accept their qualifying offers having passed earlier today, Coyotes beat writer Craig Morgan reports that the Coyotes are still working on a deal for restricted free agent forward Christian Fischer, even though there is no word on whether they requested an extension from the league. The forward does not have arbitration rights.
Fischer struggled significantly last season, seeing his playing time reduced by more than two minutes, going from 13:10 ATOI to 11:01 this season) and scored just six goals and nine points in 56 games. The 23-year-old just wrapped up his entry-level deal where he made $1.08MM.
- The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz (subscription required) writes that the loss of center Joe Thornton will have a significant effect on the team. While his offense should be able to be replaced, the bigger effect is how the team will fare without his presence in the locker room, where the veterans had quite an effect over the years. Now with Thornton and Joe Pavelski gone, much of the leadership will fall on the shoulders of second-year captain Logan Couture, who will tough shoes to fill in the Sharks’ locker room. “You have to have a whole leadership group,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “It’s on a whole group of players, it’s not a one-person leadership mentality. … Yes, you’ve got some of the veterans that certainly know it’s their responsibility, but some of the younger guys, too — Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc. It’s their time. They need to step up to the next level. We have to be the sum of all our parts.”
- With Matt Benning gone and prospects Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg still developing, the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins writes that one player that the Oilers may consider adding is former Detroit Red Wings blueliner Madison Bowey. The Red Wings opted not to give the 25-year-old a qualifying offer, making him a free-agent. However, Oilers general manager Ken Holland is familiar with Bowey, who he traded for back when he was with the Red Wings and it could be a good fit. The 6-foot-2 blueliner averaged 17:54 last season in 53 games with Detroit, posting three goals and 17 points.
With loans to Europe getting more and more common with plenty of delays in North America, the Arizona Coyotes will be sending forward Barrett Hayton, the fifth overall pick in 2018, to Finland to play in the Liiga for Ilves, according to Coyotes beat writer Craig Morgan and confirmed (translation required) by Ilves themselves. While many of the most recent loans to Europe have been for the entire season, Morgan adds that this is a loan until the NHL training camp begins.
Hayton is definitely a player that would want to take advantage of getting in some early work before the 2020-21 season begins. Hayton had a rough 2019-20 season, playing 20 games with the Coyotes last season. The 20-year-old played 14 games before the World Juniors, however, with limited playing time with Arizona. He then was released to join Team Canada where he dominated scoring six goals and 12 points in seven games, leading Canada to the gold medal.
However, that’s where things went south as he injured his shoulder in the tournament and didn’t return to the Coyotes until Feb. 20 where he only appeared in six games before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus. He did make three playoff appearances with Arizona, but still didn’t earn significant minutes.
The forward could be a key to the Coyotes future if he can earn himself a full-time role with the team next season. However, a stop in Finland could give him some extra-needed playing time. He will be playing alongside division rival Juuso Valimaki of the Calgary Flames on Ilves.
- Coyotes prospect Liam Kirk has signed with Hanhals of the HockeyEttan, the Swedish-based team announced. The 20-year-old was a seventh-round pick of Arizona (189th overall) back in 2018 out of Sheffield of the EIHL and spent the last two seasons with OHL Peterborough. Last year, he averaged just over a point per game with 21 goals and 29 assists in 47 contests. The Coyotes have until June 1, 2022 to sign him to an entry-level deal or give up his NHL rights.
The Arizona Coyotes have announced two minor signings, inking Jordan Gross and Dryden Hunt to one-year, two-way contracts. Gross was one of the team’s remaining restricted free agents, while Hunt is coming over from the Florida Panthers after failing to receive a qualifying offer.
Gross, 25, was an undrafted free agent signing out of Notre Dame in 2018 and has spent the last two seasons with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL. The puck-moving defenseman did make his NHL debut with the Coyotes this year, recording a single point in two games.
Hunt meanwhile played in 21 games for the Panthers this season and even suited up twice in the postseason bubble. Not much of an offensive threat at the NHL level, he nevertheless has been excellent in the minors, scoring 29 points in 35 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds in 2019-20.
The Arizona Coyotes may be up against the cap, but they have identified their bottom-six as a need area and have addressed it. After signing Tyler Pitlick and John Hayden yesterday, the team is working on adding another capable forward. Craig Morgan of AZ Coyotes Insider reports that Arizona is finalizing a two-year contract with Johan Larsson. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman adds that the deal carries an AAV of $1.4MM.
Larsson, 28, has quietly been a consistent contributor for the Buffalo Sabres over the past six years, culminating in a career year this past season. In five of the past six seasons, Larsson has recorded at least six goals and 14 points. Yet, his games played have been all over the map. In 2017-18, he played a career-high 80 games and posted 17 points. The year prior, he played in just 36 games and still notched 11 points. This season, he recorded a career-high 18 points in just 62 games, as well as career-best in possession numbers. At his best, Larsson appears to have 30+ point upside, but can at least be counted on to finish with around 20 points if he plays a full season.
Larsson’s offense is just a small part of his game though. The two-way center is capable at the face-off dot, plays a physical game, and is skilled at creating turnovers and winning puck battles. At under six feet and 200 lbs., Larsson is not the biggest player, but makes his presence felt on the forecheck and defending his own zone. In the Coyotes system, Larsson has a chance to excel given his defensive focus and could find that with more ice time and responsibility, his offense also picks up as well.
The Arizona Coyotes have added a pair of bottom-six options, signing Tyler Pitlick to a two-year contract according to his agent Ben Hankinson and John Hayden to a one-year deal per TSN’s Darren Drager. The Pitlick deal will carry an average annual value of $1.75MM, while the Hayden contract is for $750K.
Pitlick, 28, is a bang-and-crash winger that recorded eight goals and 20 points this season for the Philadelphia Flyers. Scoring double-digit goals just once in his career, he nevertheless adds a little bit of punch on the third or fourth line and does all of his damage at even-strength. Hayden, 25, has never played in more than 54 NHL games in a season and is not one to produce much offense, but is an injection of energy and physicality when needed.
Still, neither player really helps a team that has lacked high-end scoring talent for years. The Coyotes tried to address that problem with Phil Kessel and then Taylor Hall, but both players failed to live up to expectations. Pitlick will add a little bit of versatility and bit to the bottom-six, but the Coyotes still don’t have a go-to offensive weapon up front.