Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the Arizona Coyotes free agents history.
Arizona Coyotes Free Agent Hits and Misses
Best Signing: Mike Smith
Coyotes Sign Goalie Mike Smith http://bit.ly/iHQPS1
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) July 1, 2011
In early June 2011, Don Maloney, Arizona Coyotes general manager at the time traded RFA Ilya Bryzgalov’s rights to the Philadelphia Flyers. In doing so Maloney and the Coyotes knew they would be shopping for a new starting netminder over the off-season. On July 1st, the opening day of Free Agency, Arizona signed goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year, $4 million dollar deal.
The contract turned out to be of great value, as Smith would post career highs in Games Played (67), Wins (38), Shutouts (8), Goals-Against Average (2.21), and Save Percentage (.930). The Coyotes made it to the Western Conference Finals that season, falling to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion, Los Angeles Kings. Smith shined in playoffs, also posting career-high playoff numbers with nine wins, three SO, a GAA of 1.99 and SV% of .944.
The Yotes’ gambled big on signing an unproven Mike Smith and indeed it paid huge dividends. Surely, this has to go down as the best Arizona Coyotes free agent signings to date.
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Best Signing Honourable Mention: Ray Whitney
In 2010, Arizona landed one of the most underrated players in league history. Long-time veteran, Ray Whitney, inked a two-year deal worth $6 million dollars. The contract carried a cap hit of three million per season. Whitney previously won a Stanley Cup championship with the Carolina Hurricanes. He also brought with him years of consistent offensive production though he was not the quintessential household name.
Whitney, or “ the Wizard” would go on to put up 134 points while suiting up for 155 games over the course of his two-year deal.
The Wizard provided excellent veteran leadership to the Coyotes, helping them clinch playoff berths in both seasons. At the culmination of his contract with Arizona, Whitney would go on to sign a lucrative two-year $9 million contract with the Dallas Stars. Despite his short stint in the desert, Whitney is one of the best Arizona Coyotes free agent signings of all time.
Worst Signing: Mike Ribeiro
— theScore (@theScore) July 5, 2013
Without a doubt, Mike Ribeiro has to go down as the Coyotes’ worst Free Agent signing in the salary cap era. Arizona brought Ribeiro in on a 4 year, $22 Million dollar deal. Carrying a steep cap hit of $5.5 Million per year, Ribeiro did not perform to expectations.
The Coyotes thought they had signed a bonafide top-line center, but sadly they were mistaken. Ribeiro had put up impressive numbers with the Washington Capitals the prior season. Dave Tippett was the head coach of Arizona at the time, he previously coached Ribeiro with the Dallas Stars, giving false optimism of the reunion.
Coming into the Arizona organization with lofty expectations, Ribeiro never lived up to the bill. He put up only 47 points in 80 games played with Arizona, compared to 49 points in only 48 games played with the Caps the season prior.
Worst Signing Honourable Mention: Michael Grabner
Arizona signed Michael Grabner to a 3 year,$10.05 Million dollar contract with an annual cap hit of $3.35 Million. He scored 27 goals in the two previous seasons before coming to Arizona.
Unfortunately for both, Grabner and the Coyotes, his production would tail off following an eye injury. Grabner was bought out of the final year of his contract. In his two seasons in the desert, he only posted 27 points in 87 games played.
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