Hockey World Blog

Will Mike Smith leave Phoenix as a free agent this summer?

In 2011, the Phoenix Coyotes plucked perennial backup netminder Mike Smith out of near obscurity after he had finished stints with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning. The team signed him to a two-year deal worth $2 million, but after his stellar play in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the Coyotes could lose Smith to free agency this summer.

According to an article out of AZCentral in Arizona, with the ownership situation in Phoenix in shambles, and with Smith clearly making a name for himself by leadMike+Smith+Los+Angeles+Kings+v+Phoenix+Coyotes+Q9wtuDLs5Enling the Coyotes to the Western Conference Finals last year, he could prove to be a hot commodity this offseason – and the Coyotes may not be in a situation to re-sign him.

“I’ve always been on one- or two-year deals,” Smith said. “This is the time in my career I’ve solidified being a No. 1 goaltender, and I believe I should be compensated for it.”

Part of what’s working in against the Coyotes—and working in Smith’s favor—is the lack of quality goaltending depth available via free agency this summer. Other potential free agent goalies include Niklas Backstrom, Nikolai Khabibulin, Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Chris Mason and Ray Emery. While Backstrom might have something to offer, if he doesn’t re-sign with the Wild, and Nabokov has experienced a good season with the Islanders, Smith, 31, has a combination of youth and skill on his side that will make him a high priority for teams looking to solidify their goaltending situation for the next few years.

The other problem in Phoenix is the ownership situation. With a lack of ownership and an unclear future for the team, will they be able to afford the raise that Smith is seeking?

“Obviously, I’d like to know where I stand in this whole thing, and the stability of this franchise has a huge impact on that,” Smith said. “I don’t think (General Manager Don Maloney) is in a position right now, with no ownership, to have the authority to sign a deal like that.”

Several teams around the league could hotly pursue Smith should he make it to free agency. The Florida Panthers have long been tied to trade talks with Vancouver for Roberto Luongo, but could pursue Smith in the offseason instead and absorb the salary without parting with the assets they would have to for Luongo.

The Colorado Avalanche could make a big push for Smith in the offseason. Semyon Varlamov and J.S. Giguere were largely ineffective in goal for the team this season, and the Avs finished 27th in the league in goals against per game.

Despite a solid campaign this year in New York, the Islanders could choose to let Nabokov walk and bring in Smith as a younger option to build upon this year’s success.

Rumors also continue to persist that the Buffalo Sabres could try to trade Ryan Miller this summer. If they decide to go that route and find a suitor, could that prompt the Sabres to pursue Smith?

It’s not that Smith doesn’t want to stay in Phoenix, but the thought of a higher payday and uncertainty surrounding the ownership situation and the future of the team could push his hand toward free agency.

“We love it here,” Smith said. “We’d like to be here long-term. If we are, we’ll be excited about it. We’ll be out in the community. We’ll help market this team and get free agents in here as much as Doaner (captain Shane Doan) will and Yands (Keith Yandle) and the guys that are signed long-term. I’d like to be a part of that. If it happens, we’ll be more than thrilled.

“I know my family loves it here, and I’d love to call this place home for the next six, seven or more years. If it’s not, if it doesn’t work out, that’s part of the game and you move on and find another home. We’ll just see what happens.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.