A look at Coyotes free agents Ilya Bryzgalov, Keith Yandle and Ed Jovanovski, Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa poised to cash in big, and the latest on Nikita Filatov.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jim Gintonio reports there could be a domino effect forming involving their free agents that could determine the make of the Coyotes next season. The main domino is goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who’ll seek an expensive raise over the three-year, $12.75 million he earned on his last contract. If Bryzgalov is willing to accept a “hometown discount” to remain with the Coyotes it’ll give the club more options. GM Don Maloney however said he won’t break the bank on one player. RFA defenseman Keith Yandle will seek a considerable raise over the $1.2 million he made this season, and Maloney has steadfastly maintained Yandle will be re-signed. UFA blueliner Ed Jovanovski would need to take a substantial pay cut from the $6.5 million he made this season if he hopes to remain with the Coyotes. An unnamed NHL source believes Bryzgalov and Jovanovski aren’t likely to return. If Bryzgalov doesn’t appear likely to return, the Coyotes could gamble on Jason LaBarbara stepping up or trade Bryzgalov’s rights before July 1st, and seek a free agent replacement, like Florida’s Tomas Vokoun or Tampa Bay’s Mike Smith. With the available cap space they could also look toward the UFA market to replace Jovanovski, including Vancouver’s Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff or Montreal’s James Wisniewski.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Bryzgalov and Jovanovski aren’t re-signed, Maloney’s priority is to replace them with affordable talent, and use the remaining cap space to bolster his offense. The problem however will be finding free agents willing to gamble on the Coyotes remaining in their current market. Over the past two seasons the Coyotes have proven they’re capable of icing a competitive franchise, but their uncertain ownership could work against them. Currently they have less than $30 million invested in 13 players, and are likely to keep their payroll as close to the cap floor (expected to be at least $46 million) as possible.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Mike Boone reports Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa is set to cash in big this summer, either by the Canucks re-signing him to a significant raise over the $3.75 million he made this season, or with another club via the UFA market. Boone also expects the Montreal Canadiens to re-sign Andrei Markov, while James Wisniewski will likely be too expensive for the Habs to retain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bieksa’s post-season performance could see him earn upward of $6 million per season, especially if he hits the open market. I expect the Canucks will re-sign him, but don’t expect him to accept much of a “hometown discount”, if he accepts one at all.
YAHOO! SPORTS’ Dmitry Chesnokov recently“tweeted” Columbus Blue Jackets winger Nikita Filatov has denied all rumors he’s returning to the KHL this season and is determined to make the Blue Jackets this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’ll have to put in more of an effort than he did over the past couple of years.