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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Phoenix: Youngsters Turris, Boedker, MacLean and Tikhonov ready to Step It Up?

Update 8/29/11:
Daymond Langkow
@DarrenDreger Darren Dreger TwitterLangkow to Phx...Stempniak to Calgary. Trade pending Langkow passing physical

PHX trading for Langkow is certainly a bit of a gamble because of his serious neck injury that forced him to miss most of last season. Stempniak was likely a needed salary dump to make the deal work from a budget perspective.

@kausatoday Kevin Allen Twiter:
Phoenix GM Don Maloney said, even after the Langkow trade, he has money left in his budget to make other moves.

Sergei Bobrovsky & Shane Doan
If that's the case, I would think if anything can be done to improve the quality of goaltending, Don Maloney should really consider that. I would think a goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky in Philadelphia could be had for a draft pick or two. "Bob's" longterm future with PHI was eliminated by PHI's signing of Bryzgalov to a longterm, lucrative deal ($51M over 9-years).

Bob put up a very respectable .915 Sv% as a rookie with PHI -- much better than both current Coyotes goalies. He will turn 23 years old in September. He's signed for two more seasons and is still an RFA after that contract's expiry. Obviously, his best years are still ahead of him.

Phoenix Coyotes
Left WingCapGPPTOICenterCapGPPTOIRight WingCapGPPTOI
Ray Whitney$3.0794816:22Martin Hanzal$1.8612619:30Shane Doan$4.6726019:17
Lauri Korpikoski$1.8794015:31Daym. Langkow$4.54114:45Radim Vrbata$3.0794816:22
Raffi Torres$1.8802912:29Boyd Gordon$1.360913:02Taylor Pyatt$1.0763115:30
Mikkel Boedker$1.1341410:54Kyle Turris~1.3652511:16Brett MacLean$0.71338:45
P. Bissonnette$0.64815:15Vik. Tikhonov^$0.8611612:07P. Nokelainen^$0.6671312:17
Left DefenseCapGPPTOIRight DefenseCapGPPTOIGoalCapGPWSV%
Keith Yandle$5.3825924:22Derek Morris$2.8771621:03Mike Smith$2.02213.899
Rostislav Klesla$3.0611119:04Michal Rozsival$5.0652121:00Jason Labarbera$1.3177.909
O.E.Larsson$1.8481115:02Adrian Aucoin$2.0752221:39
David Schlemko$0.6431416:02
Salary Cap$64,300,000Kurt Sauer$1.8LTIR
Cap Payroll$51,930,625Bonuses: $850KP. O'Sullivan$0.4Buyout
Cap Space$12,369,37524 playersP. Nokelainen$0.2Buyout
Floor Clearance$3,630,625$48.3M
~ Projected Cap Hit | ^ Most Recent NHL Stats 

Update 8/28/11:
Don Maloney (right) in his office
HFB's trade board moderator, Caley, in a recent post transcribed an video interview of PHX GM, Don Maloney: 
In an interview for the Coyotes website, GM Don Maloney discusses a trade for a center: "If you look at our team right now that's the one position we need to upgrade. We're working on something right now, quite frankly, that hopefully will come our way in the near future, hopefully before training camp, which I think would be a good addition for us." As the interviewer mentions that it reminds him of past years when, late in the summer, the Coyotes added Robert Lang and Eric Belanger, Maloney responds: "It's similar...this is more of a trade that we're working on that could bring in a pretty good player, in my opinion, that would fit in well with us...I feel like we're in a pretty good position at least make ourselves a little bit better prior to training camp."

Having lost both Eric Belanger and Vern Fiddler to free agency this summer, with only one center acquired (Boyd Gordon), PHX is arguably the most in need of an additional top nine center. Very few teams are in a position to help out the Coyotes to fulfill the demand. However, if we look at the cap situation league wide, you'll notice there is one team that is significantly over the cap and will most likely have to bury a contract in the minors or Europe to have any chance of getting back under. That team would be the Buffalo Sabres, and the player they would have to bury in the minors is Alex Kotalik. 

Brad Boyes
Even then, BUF is still over the cap by a good $1.5M. Thus, somebody else will have to go. The likely options are Shaone Morrisonn, Brad Boyes, and Jochen Hecht. Morrisonn has a year left on his contract at $2.1M and looks to be the odd man out in the top six blueline rotation in BUF. Both Boyes and Hecht project as third line forwards that are overpaid by a couple million each.

Buffalo could trade Morrisonn without taking on a contract and deploy one of their existing lower paid blueliners, allowing them to get under the cap. Another option would be to trade Boyes or Hecht in exchange for a forward making about half that amount.

What team would take on Boyes or Hecht at twice the cap hit vs the player they would give up. It would be the team most desperate for a top nine center: the Phoenix Coyotes. PHX has a plethora of top nine wingers who could be used in such a deal including Lee Stempniak and Taylor Pyatt both of whom have ties to Buffalo. Stempniak is from the great Buffalo area while Pyatt played for the Sabres in years past.

Lee Stempniak
My guess would be that BUF would be more interested in dealing Boyes over Hecht since the latter is more effective as a third line center. Despite Boyes' shortcomings as a center, a team like PHX is in no place to look a gift horse in the mouth. If Maloney is targeting a legitimate NHL top nine forward who can play at least 15 minutes a game, I wager that they'll make due with Boyes as one of their top nine centers.

As for which one of Stempniak or Pyatt would be going the other way, I would say the more likely one would be Stempniak. He makes twice as much as Pyatt and thus, the PHX payroll would be less impacted. In fact, considering how much PHX spent on salaries last season, if they were to increase that amount proportionately to the increase in the league cap, PHX likely has a couple million left in the budget to spend. Hence,

Lee Stempniak $1.9M for Brad Boyes $4.0M works both for PHX and BUF from a budget and cap perspective respectively.

Mikkel Boedker
Update 8/17/11:
Mikkel Boedker re-signs with PHX:
@TSNBobMcKenzie TSNBobMcKenzie Twitter: Hearing PHX and Mikael Boedker have agreed to terms on a new contract.

Two year deal according to his agent:
@TitanSports365 Titan Sports 365 Twitter: Congratulations to Mikkel Boedker on signing a 2 year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes!

(By the way, Titan is the same agency that now represents Shea Weber).

The contract value is still pending. What's interesting though, Mikkel Boedker has near identical NHL totals to teammate and sometimes linemate, Kyle Turris. Thus, I suspect they will get similar contracts.
126GP | 16G | 29A | 45P | 0.36P/GP | 26PIM (Boedker)
131GP | 19G | 27A | 46P | 0.35P/GP | 39PIM (Turris)

Update 8/18/11:
@JSportsnet John Shannon TwitterMikkel Boedker's numbers in Phx.... 2 years, one way....1.0 mil year 1, 1.2 mil year 2...Cap hit of 1.1 million.

I was estimating $1.5M. However, Boedker averaging only ~11 mins TOI per game (see below), probably forced the size of this contract right down, close to the million mark.

Kyle Turris now remains the final PHX RFA among the four mentioned in the post title.

Original article continued:

Viktor Tikhonov
The Phoenix Coyotes have re-signed forward Viktor Tikhonov to a one-year, two-way contract worth $826,875 (that contains a European escape clause according to RDS, revealed later in the day). Could this be the year the former first round pick (28th overall in 2008) emerges as a legitimate NHL player, at either wing or center? If it is, he'll have three other guys in front of him that have arguably shown more of a commitment to the organization.

Some may be surprised Tikhonov is back at all in North America, considering his KHL escapades a couple of years ago. Though he signed an NHL contract, the two-way component is actually a special clause that allows Tikhonov to play in Europe in case he does not make the big club from the get-go. Sending Tikhonov to Europe allows PHX to avoid waivers, while also being able to recall him at a later date during the season, again without requiring him to pass through waivers (more on the subject here).

Tikhonov's famous grandfather spent his entire career churning out stars for the CSKA (Red Army) team during the Soviet Russia era. However, Lil' Tik spent much of his formative years in the USA.
Viktor grew up in Los Gatos, California and in 1994, moved with his family to Lexington, Kentucky. His father Vasily was the goalie coach for the San Jose Sharks American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. Viktor was heavily involved in the Bluegrass Blades youth hockey program.
As for the youthful competition in front of Tikhonov in PHX, I'm referring to the likes of Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Brett MacLean -- who I like to collectively call "MacTurbo". Where Tikhonov didn't get a taste of the NHL last season, Turris spent practically the whole year on the big club; Boedker split the season 50:50 between PHX and San Antonio (AHL), while MacLean had a couple of extended looks on the big team.

Brett MacLean
Though Tikhonov was left out when it came to call ups, he and MacLean are fairly close as prospects on the cusp of cracking an NHL lineup (as the latter too is not waiver exempt).  Turris and Boedker for all intents and purposes are already NHLers (but remain RFAs).

MacLean showed last season he has a knack for the powerplay. Despite the limited number of games he played, and the TOI he received during those stints, he was utilized by coach Dave Tippett on the PP. Though he registed only one point on the PP (he only had 3 points in total), he saw an average of 1:43 TOI per game on the PP. That was slightly higher than Turris and Boedker, who received 1:26 and 1:17 respectively on the PP per game.

The key forwards on the PP remain with PHX. They are Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata all in the 3+ minutes zone of PP TOI/GP. The PK will see a bit of an overhaul this season since two key PK forwards left PHX this off-season -- Eric Belanger and Vern Fiddler. They'll be replaced by PK specialist Boyd Gordon over from Washinton, and Petteri Nokelainen, back again with PHX after a year in Europe. Gordon and Noke will team with Lauri Korpikoski and Hanzal to form the group of top four forwards on the PK rotation.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The defense corps looks to be fairly set. The loss of Ed Jovanoski and his 50GP & 20min TOI/GP should be mitigated by the continued development of super blueline prospect Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who got a healthy dose of the NHL despite his tender age (this season he will be 20 years old).

The lanky, left shooting, Larsson showed versatility during his 15 mins a game TOI, having spent just under a minute each on average both on the PP and PK for PHX last season. His numbers should rise signficantly in all TOI categories.

Goaltending will likely be an Achilles heal unless Mike Smith miraculously develops consistency in his game. He's certainly capable of big games as he displayed at times during Tampa's playoff run last season. However, overall Smith's poor save percentage during the regular season is likely more indicative of his future play as well. What he has going for him though is that he saw his best seasons in Dallas under current PHX coach Tippet.

Back to the forwards -- likely to recieve more even strength minutes and PP time, look for Turris and Boedker to surge in overall TOI, pushing them past teammates into top six roles for themselves in PHX this coming season. MacLean could very well see a relatively similar increase, perhaps setting himself up for a leap frog of his own.

Phoenix Coyotes
Left WingCapGPPTOICenterCapGPPTOIRight WingCapGPPTOI
Ray Whitney$3.0794816:22Martin Hanzal$1.8612619:30Shane Doan$4.6726019:17
Lauri Korpikoski$1.8794015:31Boyd Gordon$1.360913:02Radim Vrbata$3.0794816:22
Raffi Torres$1.8802912:29P. Nokelainen^$0.6
1312:17Lee Stempniak$1.9823815:15
Mikkel Boedker~1.5341410:54Kyle Turris~1.5652511:16Taylor Pyatt$1.0763115:30
P. Bissonnette$0.64815:15Vik. Tikhonov^$0.8
1612:07Brett MacLean$0.71338:45
Left DefenseCapGPPTOIRight DefenseCapGPPTOIGoalCapGPWSV%
Keith Yandle$5.3825924:22Derek Morris$2.8771621:03Mike Smith$2.02213.899
Rostislav Klesla$3.0611119:04Michal Rozsival$5.0652121:00Jason Labarbera$1.3177.909
O.E.Larsson$1.8481115:02Adrian Aucoin$2.0752221:39
David Schlemko$0.6431416:02
LTIRKurt Sauer$1.8Defenseman
BuyoutP. O'Sullivan$0.4Forward
BuyoutP. Nokelainen$0.2Forward
Salary Cap$64,300,000
Cap Payroll$49,930,625Bonuses: $850K
Cap Space$14,369,375Roster Size: 24 players

~ Projected Cap Hit | ^ Most Recent NHL Stats 

Alternatively, PHX GM Don Maloney may be dangling MacLean in front of other NHL GMs in the hopes of an exchange that garners PHX an experienced center that can play among the top nine. Despite MacLean's somewhat slow first step, he has a fairly high offensive ceiling.

With the abundance of youthful faces up front, Tikhonov will have his work cut out for him considering this competition is ahead of him on the depth chart. His best opportunity maybe to beat out Nokelainen for the fourth line center role. Tik fortunately did gain some experience on the PK during his time in the NHL, which can only help in his quest for an NHL job in PHX. At 6'2" 190lbs, he certainly has the frame to succeed in the NHL as a third line two way forward. Below Viktor Tikhonov's numbers:

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