Three new players welcomed to pack

The Phoenix Coyotes added some grit, depth and goaltending on Friday to begin their plunge into the free agency market, also bringing back a familiar face.  Raffi Torres (2 years, $3.5M), Boyd Gordon (2 years, $2.65M) and Mike Smith (2 years, $4M) were all signed to contracts, while Radim Vrbata re-signed with the club in a three-year, $9 million deal of his own.

Welcome (back, for one)!
In the opposite vein, defenseman Ed Jovanovski left for Florida, veteran centreman Eric Belanger found a new home with the Oilers and Vernon Fiddler became a Star.


Torres was last seen in the not-so-distant past.  The Stanley Cup finalist appeared in 80 regular season games with the Canucks, tallying 29 points (14 goals) and 78 PIM before going 3-4-7 in the playoffs both before and after creating infamous controversies.  The most glaring statement a signing like this makes is that the Coyotes want to make their part of the Western Conference an even more (as if that was possible) uncomfortable place to be in, and Torres also brings offensive (no pun intended) upside that opponents would do best not to overlook.
Gordon's skills replace, among other things, a stat that Fiddler and Belanger both left their marks on last season--faceoff wins.  His 2010-11 numbers were 3-6-9 with 16 penalty minutes in 60 games, but another facet to his game goes unrecorded, for the most part: penalty-killing.
Finally, the Coyotes filled a very glaring need between the pipes as netminder Mike Smith joined the team.  Despite only appearing in 22 games last season, Smith turned a lot of heads when he first broke into the league.  His and Dave Tippett's former workplace (Dallas) was surely a factor in helping them reunite.  In those 22 games with Tampa, for the record, he went 13-6-1 with one shutout, a 2.90 GAA and a .899 save percentage.
So the first dive's been taken.  The focus now becomes how deep that pool is after opening day, and what other assets can be brought to the table to fill needs that are still present.  For the Coyotes, there's the elusive first-line point-producing centreman, the point presence on the power play (note: if possible, remaining free agents, it would be most preferable if you were to bring with you the talent of an entire power play), and the savvy defenseman able to lead a suddenly much younger blueline.
It may still be a long summer ahead.  Unfortunately (and especially unfortunate for Phoenix) it's not one without limits.


George Prax's picture

Not a bad haul, but this hasn't been a good summer for the Coyotes. They lost a top four defenseman, a franchise goalie and a couple of good forwards, and replaced them with basically spare parts for the most part. I have a feeling it's going to be a long year in Phoenix.