Don Maloney and Coyotes pushing to get better through free agency

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Coyotes’ general manager Don Maloney has been burning the midnight oil in search of quality players for his team.

Once the free agency period started on Wednesday, Maloney and the Coyotes hit the ground running. They signed eight players: forward Brad Richardson, defenseman Zbynek Michalek, goalie Anders Lindback, defenseman Dylan Reese, forward Steve Downie, forward Dustin Jeffrey, defenseman Dakota Mermis and center Antoine Vermette.

Maloney was very pleased with the moves the team made in bringing in these players, whom he feels can all make immediate impacts at their respective positions.

“I actually like where we’re at right now,” Maloney said. “I feel we’ve solidified our blue line. We’ve really strengthened the lower half of our lineup. Now, the trick is going to be finding more skill and more offensive ability to come in to go with the things we’ve done.”

“We’re certainly expecting some good things from some of our younger players and provide some of the offense, but we know we have to bring in a few more players with a little more offensive upside,” Maloney said.

On Tuesday, the Coyotes re-acquired center Boyd Gordon from the Edmonton Oilers. Gordon played in 123 games with Arizona from 2011-13. Maloney is extremely excited to have Gordon back in the mix. Maloney believes Gordon can come back and make a difference up front for Arizona, along with Richardson.

“Certainly we know who he (Gordon) is and how he plays,” Maloney said. “Brad Richardson, we’re really excited about; lots of character and speed.”

Michalek and Vermette were two tough ones the Coyotes had to let go last season – Michalek going to the St. Louis Blues and Vermette to the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks – but now they’re back, and they’re two strong pieces Arizona has added to their puzzle.

“One thing with Z (Michalek), he can play with EL (Oliver Ekman-Larsson), or he can play in your third pairing,” Maloney said. “We know what he is, and what he brings to our table, and even just his character and personality. He fits with us; he’s one of us. It just helps to give us a little more stability on the blue line.”

“We are thrilled to bring Antoine (Vermette) back to Arizona,” Maloney said. “Antoine is a very good two-way center and one of the NHL’s best face-off men. He is a great person, a great teammate, and a strong leader. We are extremely happy to have him rejoin the Coyotes.”

Maloney made sure all the deals were beneficial to the team. They’re all relatively short deals, which doesn’t leave the team “overextended,” to use one of Maloney’s words. It also leaves them in a good place from a financial standpoint.

“We still have very good flexibility from our budget; it’s not like we’re tapped out,” Maloney said. “We’re remaining patient, because I think there’s going to be fallout going forward with the way these contracts are going. Something has to give; not everybody gets four and five million bucks.”

“There’s still a lot of players out there too that are looking for jobs. Prices are a little overinflated right now,” Maloney said. “For us, we’re looking at the trade market in the next few days, next week, (it) might be September. We’ll find somebody.”

Maloney is a realist; he knows that it’s going to be hard finding the cream of the crop, which is why he wants the group he has now to burst with energy, and compete until they can land that top level talent.

“We’re fortunate. You look at our penalty killing, for the last couple years has been (at) the real bottom of the league. We bring back Boyd Gordon, excellent face-offs, Brad Richardson, excellent face-offs (and) good penalty killing. That’s really going to help us,” Maloney said. “It’s going to allow (Coyotes’ head coach Dave) Tip(pett) to put out lines that, at least they can work hard and check, and they understand it. We still have to score goals, we know that. We still have to find more talent, but we have talent in our system.”


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