The Arizona Coyotes weren’t expected to do much during free agency and rightfully so. They obviously were not in a position to attract high-profile free agents, and they weren’t in the position to make a big splash in a trade.
However, they could add a few quality players through both of these methods. The players they acquired during the offseason are listed below. All contract details are courtesy of Spotrac.com.
- Nick Bjugstad, Center (Signed 1 year, $900k contract)
- Troy Stecher, Defenseman (Signed 1 year, $1.25 million contract)
- Josh Brown, Defenseman (Signed 2 year, $2.55 million contract)
- Jon Gillies, Goalie (Signed 1 year,$750k contract)
- Patrik Nemeth, Defenseman (Traded by Rangers to Arizona with a couple picks)
- Zack Kassian, Right Winger (Traded by Edmonton to Arizona with a couple picks)
Like said earlier, although the Coyotes didn’t spend big money, I still liked what they did in free agency. Not spending big money was the perfect way to go if you are Bill Armstrong. Regarding who they ended up getting, it’s a nice little collection of players that brings in some elements not previously seen with the team and some nice depth.
To start off, the team signed goaltender Jon Gillies. Last season saw the 28-year-old start the year with the St. Louis Blues. However, after one game, the Blues sent him to the New Jersey Devils.
He played in a career-high 20 games, 19 of them with the Devils, and posted .887 save percentage and a 3.70 goals against average. He would also suit up for the Maine Mariners of the ECHL and both the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Providence Bruins in the AHL.
A third round pick of Calgary in 2012, Gillies still haven’t proven to be a legitimate goalie in the league. However, he might get an opportunity with Arizona here. He is not expected to be on the opening night roster but there is a chance he could be since the goalie position is quite thin.
There is no clear-cut number one guy in between the pipes, so Gillies could get some playing time. Karel Vejmelka is expected to be on the every day roster but who knows what will happen with him and the backup goalie spot. Either way it adds a but of depth and a third option for the Coyotes.
As far as their additions to the forward group is concerned, the Coyotes added centerman Nick Bjugstad and right winger Zack Kassian. Bjugstad was actually regarded as a hot prospect and a promising player when being drafted by the Florida Panthers with the 19th overall pick in 2010.
In his seven season stint in Sunrise, Bjugstad was one of the more dependable players on the Panthers roster. He developed into a player that could play top six minutes every night. He was capable goal scorer as well as a good point producer.
But ever since he left Florida, his career hasn’t been the same. He had a brief 45 game stint in Pittsburgh and he spent the last two years in Minnesota. He has dealt with constant injuries and he hasn’t come close to the production he put up in Florida.
So what are the Coyotes getting here? Well, Bjugstad adds depth down the middle of the ice, which is something that Arizona has had an issue filling. He’s a big body. He provides size in the lineup and can play a physical game, another element that’s been needed in the desert.
Since the lineup is thin, he will be able to play extensive minutes, something he hasn’t been able to do in the past. He could fill in on the third-line center spot or maybe even he go play on the second line, but that’s maybe pushing it. Several players had raised their offensive game under Andre Tourigny, so if Bjugstad rekindles his offensive output, I wouldn’t be shocked.
Zack Kassian was acquired in a draft day trade with the Oilers. The deal worked out and made sense for both teams. Edmonton was in a tough position with their available salary cap space and had to shed a contract that was holding them back. They were able to do that with Arizona as Kassian is moving to the desert since Edmonton also threw in some more draft picks.
It’s a win-win scenario. As far as what the Coyotes are getting from Kassian, it isn’t much. The current 31-year-old hasn’t been a great scorer. He never blossomed into anything special. However, he has carved out a long career in the NHL because of his grit, roughness and physicality.
Kassian has been known around the league as one of the most tenacious players in hockey. He has allocated a tremendous amount of penalty minutes and has been one of the most physical players in the game, racking up over 100 hits in five of the last six seasons in Edmonton. He gives the Coyotes the added element of toughness, which is something that’s desperately needed in that organization.
The opposition is now thinking more about starting beef with one of the younger players on the ice. Kassian has this presence that makes opponents fear in having a confrontation with him. That’s the one trait that all effective enforcers have, and it’s always a big help for a team that’s trying to find it’s way.
The Coyotes also added three defensemen to strengthen the depth on that side of the puck. Two of the guys they added are similar to Zack Kassian. Both of those guys are Patrik Nemeth and Josh Brown.
Brown hasn’t had a long career thus far and he’s more of a depth piece than a regular starter. He doesn’t provide much of anything on offense. However, he is rough and nasty. He loves to get in a good fight on the ice.
He has an edge to him that not many have. He is extremely physical, especially around the boards. He can rack up over 100 hits in a short amount of time and can protect the young guys on the roster.
That description can be used on Patrik Nemeth as well. He just blocks a lot more shots and believe me, Arizona is going to need his blocked shots because without that they would give up way too many goals.
Troy Stecher has a similar game to the aforementioned Brown and Nemeth. He just can provide more offensively that those two and he doesn’t have that aggressive edge. However, he can still play physical and can also block a ton of shots. I expect all three guys to be on the every day lineup.
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