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THE DESERT DOG BLOG: MALONEY AND STAFF FACE BUSY OFF-SEASON

Monday, 05.03.2010 / 7:21 PM / The Desert Dog Blog - by Dave Vest
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The season is over and the players have gone their separate ways. It took me five days, but I’ve finally accepted it.

Have you? If you answered yes, keep reading. If you answered no, take as much time as you need...

The Coyotes had a terrific season in 2009-10. They set franchise marks for wins (50), home wins (29) and points (107). And they turned heads and raised eyebrows by taking the Detroit Red Wings to seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

                             Don Maloney
General Manager Don Maloney did a great job of building this team last summer and then adding key pieces just before the trade deadline in March. Now, with the bar raised higher for 2010-11 and beyond, Maloney has even more work to do to keep things going.

Eight players who played in Game 7 vs. Detroit are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Four of them are defensemen – Adrian Aucoin, Zbynek Michalek, Derek Morris and Mathieu Schneider. The other four potential UFAs are forwards – Robert Lang, Matthew Lombardi, Taylor Pyatt and Lee Stempniak. Maloney has acknowledged that re-signing all of them is not realistic. Sadly, he’s correct.

A fan recently asked me exactly how many players Maloney will be able to re-sign. It’s difficult to answer that until Maloney learns his budget for next season, which, because of the team’s unresolved ownership situation, hasn’t happened yet.

“I'm still waiting direction from the league regarding what our playing budget is going to be,” Maloney told reporters a few days ago at his last press conference of the season. “That will happen in due course. Hopefully within the next few weeks we'll have some clarity on it.” (Click here to watch Maloney's press conference.)

Zbynek Michalek
Of the eight players mentioned above, I’m guessing Michalek, an alternate captain, is the player most Coyotes fans would like Maloney to address first. I spoke to Michalek before he left for the off-season and he told me he is open to returning to Phoenix, the team that gave him his shot to stick in the NHL. The only snag I can see is that Michalek and his brother Milan are very close and they had a blast playing together at the Winter Olympics. Milan plays for the Ottawa Senators.

That reminds me. Check back to phoenixcoyotes.com throughout the off-season to watch interviews with Michalek and other players recorded the day they gathered their gear and scattered for the off-season. A fresh interview will be posted every couple of days. This week, look for interviews with Aucoin and captain Shane Doan.

In addition to the eight unrestricted free agents, Maloney and his staff will have to negotiate new deals with restricted free agents Martin Hanzal, Sami Lepisto, Scottie Upshall, Daniel Winnik and Wojtek Wolski.

In addition to all that, the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will soon be upon us. This year, the two-day event is taking place close to home – at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 25-26.

Road trip anyone?

Barring a trade or trades, the Coyotes will make two first-round selections on June 25, including the 13th overall pick which they acquired from the Calgary Flames last season in the trade that sent Olli Jokinen to the Flames. Jokinen, of course, has since moved on to the New York Rangers.

I will close this blog by again inviting readers to submit questions, this time about this past season, the off-season or next season. Per usual, I will address the most popular and/or interesting questions in a future blog.

Thank you for reading.

Reach Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com.

 
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