Jul 21, 2012, 11:05 PM EDT
No one will confuse the Phoenix Coyotes with the Gretzky Oilers, but an underrated first line helped them score a decent amount of goals last season. Yet after losing Ray Whitney in free agency and with Shane Doan‘s future in doubt, the Coyotes offense could really lack firepower.
Whitney was the only Coyotes forward who approached a point-per-game, scoring 77 in 82 games last season. The only player among the team’s top three scorers who’s guaranteed to return is Radim Vrbata (Vrbata scored 62 points). Once you go beyond defenseman Keith Yandle‘s 43 points, no other Phoenix player generated more than 37 (which Lauri Korpikoski and Antoine Vermette both managed).
Vermette is currently the team’s highest-paid forward and one of several forwards who needs to embrace a greater role. The Coyotes must hope that Vermette’s strong postseason is a sign of a promising future.
The team’s biggest free agent acquisition is veteran forward Steve Sullivan, a winger who scored 48 points with Pittsburgh and might act as Ray Whitney-lite (health permitting).
Phoenix could gain a significant offensive boost from its much-touted defense, too. If Yandle doesn’t get traded, he should provide points while many believe that Oliver Ekman-Larsson is on the verge of a breakout season.
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