The Arizona Coyotes signed restricted free agent left winger Lawson Crouse to a five-year contract worth $21.5 million, or $4.3 million per season. This contract carries him through the 2026-27 season.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 8, 2022
RFA Lawson Crouse Gets New Contract
Over his six-year NHL career, Crouse played just for the Coyotes thus far. The Florida Panthers drafted him back in 2015 with their first-round, 11th overall selection. In total, Crouse amassed 56 goals and 54 assists for 110 points through 346 career games. In 2021-22, he posted 20 goals and 14 assists for 34 points in 65 games, setting new scoring highs for his career.
Last season also saw a major uptick in Crouse’s usage, jumping by over three minutes a game on average. Playing more often in the top six got him 17:26 in ice time on a nightly basis. He earned those minutes, carrying a positive relative Corsi-for percentage (1.7%) for the first time in his career. On a cellar-dwelling Coyotes team with only 25 wins last season, that number truly means something.
What This Means for the Future
The Coyotes enter the 2022-23 season with little to no expectations surrounding their current roster. At the beginning of July, they possessed a mind-blowing $33 million in cap space. Much of that money became available as high-dollar contracts reached free agency status. Phil Kessel, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, and Anton Stralman all represent pricy players performing well below the value of their contracts. As a result, all those players now search for a new opportunity elsewhere (and likely at a much reduced dollar amount).
This season will likely follow an identical format, as Arizona works to rebuild through the draft. To reach the cap floor, expect General Manager Bill Armstrong to acquire more overpriced, short-term players. That way, he can ice a valid hockey team while also ensuring mediocre to poor performance. The worse they play, the better their draft picks next year will be. That recipe should pay off eventually from the 2022 draft class, where the Coyotes selected an incredible seven players in the first two rounds alone (and 10 in total). In 2023, they own nine picks too. No one would be surprised to see them add to that total at some point during the year either. A deal or two (or three…) could come at the deadline, moving serviceable rentals to teams looking at postseason runs.
All of the above makes the Coyotes a less-than-ideal place to play, at least for the immediate future. Crouse, as an RFA, held less bargaining power than his UFA counterparts. However, Crouse and others in the organization represent the young pieces Arizona looks to build around. Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz lead this team offensively for now, and Crouse is in that next echelon of players. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to carve out an NHL career as Arizona continues rebuilding. The draft picks today and yesterday should add even more firepower for Keller and Schmaltz to play beside. But, if the team doesn’t improve, Crouse could be ready to move on by the time he is negotiating his next deal.
Lawson Crouse’s Hat Trick is with a goal at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded.
It’s the 8th Hat Trick where a player scored at least 1 goal in each of those 3 ways in Coyotes/Jets history.
The last was by Antoine Vermette on Jan. 26, 2014 at the Canucks. pic.twitter.com/wFw0JPknJd
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 15, 2022