Coyotes Turn to Sullivan to Replace Whitney
By Corey Masisak | NHL.com
NEW YORK -- Mike Smith arrived in Phoenix last summer with a modest contract but a hefty task – replace a guy who just signed a $51 million contract. Smith proved up to the task, and in turn the Coyotes didn't miss Ilya Bryzgalov.
A year later, another of the Coyotes' stars is gone -- and another guy on a low-risk deal has arrived to help replace him.
Ray Whitney was spectacular for Phoenix last season, posting 24 goals and a team-high 77 points. He signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Stars, where he will join forces with Jaromir Jagr and try to help them back into the playoffs.
To keep the Coyotes in the NHL's postseason party, Phoenix has to replace Whitney's offense. General Manager Don Maloney signed Steve Sullivan to a one-year, $1.85 million contract, and Sullivan could fit in Whitney’s place in the lineup.
► Click here to watch Maloney discuss Sullivan.
Sullivan has been a dynamic player in the NHL, but he's struggled to stay healthy. There are six 60-point seasons on his resume, but the 38-year-old has missed at least 25 games in three of the past five campaigns.
After accruing 10 goals and 22 points in 44 games in his final season with the Nashville Predators in 2010-11, Sullivan rehabilitated his reputation as an offensive threat with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season. He finished with 17 goals and 48 points. Even better, he stayed healthy.
Whitney played a lot with Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal, and Maloney said Sullivan is likely to get the chance to fit on a line with those two players. Sullivan could also help boost the team's power play.
His work with the extra man drew rave reviews from his teammates in Pittsburgh last season. The Penguins are flush with world-class talent, but the power play was more effective with Sullivan on the ice. He is a facilitator, and a couple of the Coyotes’ goal scorers could be big beneficiaries from working with Sullivan.
►Click here to watch an in-depth, exclusive interview with Sullivan.