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RECAPPING THE OFF-SEASON MOVES

Tuesday, 08.04.2009 / 4:48 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
Within the next few weeks, Coyotes players will start trickling back into the Valley and some will start skating informally together with other NHLers at the Alltel Ice Den in Scottsdale in preparation for the 2009-10 NHL season.

Training camp officially begins on Sept. 5 for rookies and Sept. 12 for veterans.

Obviously, it has been a very busy off-season for the Coyotes, in more ways than one. What follows is a recap of what has happened with regards to major personnel issues:

Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Getty Images).
In late June, the Coyotes added six players to the organization at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.

With the sixth overall pick, Phoenix grabbed Swedish defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a slick skater and puck mover who will return to Sweden for the 2009-10 season. With its second pick, the 36th overall, Phoenix selected forward Chris Brown, a power forward from Texas who impressed the scouts with his off-ice demeanor as much as his one-ice skills. Brown is set to play for the University of Michigan in 2009-10. The Coyotes then traded up to select goaltender Mike Lee in the third round. Phoenix’s other draft picks were forward Jordan Szwarz (97th overall), defenseman Justin Weller (105th overall), and forward Evan Bloodoff (157th overall).

During the draft, the Coyotes made several trades. One deal brought defenseman Jim Vandermeer to Phoenix from the Calgary Flames. Another deal landed the Coyotes defenseman Sami Lepisto from Washington. A third trade brought defenseman Shaun Heshka to Phoenix from Vancouver.

Prospects take a break at the Development Camp (Norm Hall).
Soon after the draft, the Coyotes staged their annual Prospect Development Camp. Twenty prospects, including all six mentioned above, attended the camp, which featured three on-ice workouts, a hike up and down Camelback Mountain, and an autograph session with fans inside Jobing.com Arena. Forward Brett MacLean turned many heads during the camp and likely will challenge for a roster spot at camp.

On July 1, the Coyotes began signing unrestricted free agents. First up was center Vernon Fiddler, a solid penalty killer and successful face-off man. Later that day, Phoenix signed Jason LaBarbera to provide depth in goal. The next day, the Coyotes signed defenseman Adrian Aucoin to help provide more veteran leadership.

Radim Vrbata
On July 13, the Coyotes acquired forward Lauri Korpikoski from the New York Rangers for forward Enver Lisin. A few days later, Phoenix made an interesting trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning, re-acquiring forward Radim Vrbata for defenseman David Hale and forward Todd Fedoruk. Vrbata, who left the Lightning after 18 games last season because his wife was experiencing a difficult pregnancy, is extremely excited to return to the Coyotes, for whom he set career highs in goals and assists in 2007-08.

General Manager Don Maloney on Tuesday said he is not done trying to enhance the roster.

“I like where we are right now yet continue to search for value in the marketplace,” Maloney said. “We do have both roster and salary cap flexibility. However, the season starts in October, not August. I am not rushing into any deals unless it is something too good to pass up.”

Maloney added that he would still like to add size/toughness to the roster before training camp starts.

The Coyotes re-signed some key players this summer, including forward Scottie Upshall, who quickly won over fans by scoring eight goals in 19 games after coming to the Coyotes in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Scottie Upshall gets a nice rebound (Norm Hall).
“Scottie played exceptionally well upon his arrival from Philadelphia,” Maloney said. “With the additional ice-time and leadership responsibility we anticipate him receiving from us in 2009-10, we believe he will be an important player. He brings speed, energy and competitiveness to his shifts. I expect him to have a career scoring year and help us get to the playoffs in 2009-10.”

The Coyotes also re-signed defenseman Keith Yandle to a two-year deal. Forward Daniel Winnik was awarded a one-year contract via salary arbitration.

Note: Click here to listen to a podcast with Upshall.



 
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