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How will Arizona replace the offense lost this summer?

Aug 10, 2014, 5:38 PM EDT

Edmonton Oilers v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney bought out Mike Ribeiro’s contract over “behavioral issues” and let Radim Vrbata walk because he demanded a no-trade/no-movement clause. Those forwards tied for fourth and second on the team in points respectively, so the obvious question now is how will the Coyotes fill that void.

Keep in mind that they ranked 20th in goals per game in 2013-14, so this isn’t a minor issue. It’s possible to make the playoffs while finishing towards the bottom of the league in goals scored, but that would put even more pressure on goaltender Mike Smith than he’s already facing.

The Coyotes didn’t make a big splash on the free agent market, but they did take on the final two seasons of Sam Gagner‘s three-year, $14.4 million contract. The 25-year-old forward (who is celebrating his birthday today) is coming off of a rough campaign, but he might be part of the solution in Arizona.

Gagner did enjoy a breakout campaign in the shortened 2013 season, scoring 14 goals and 38 points in 48 contests. He obviously regressed in 2013-14, but he missed most of October after breaking his jaw during training camp and that might be largely to blame for his struggles.

After watching his contract get passed around from Edmonton to Tampa Bay to Arizona this summer, he should have plenty of motivation to prove himself.

Beyond Gagner, the Coyotes will likely have to hope that their young forwards are capable of picking up the slack. Mikkel Boedker, 24, took a big step forward last season with his 51-point campaign. Max Domi might also make the leap to the NHL in 2014-15.

Throw in a full season of Martin Erat, who the Coyotes acquired from Washington in March, and there’s the potential for the Coyotes’ offense to at least be serviceable, although it certainly remains a big question mark going forward.

  1. hth2727 - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    Erat had what, 2 goals last year?ya good luck yotes with that guy and gagne,wish they would at least try to have an offense thats respectable but whatever not how they do it

  2. montrealknowledge - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Are they going be Arizona and not Phoenix Coyotes? I was not aware if this, proof not every Canadian sports fan knows everything about hockey. Arizona is a state, take a tip from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim if you want to increase your fan base.

    • phxyotes - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:52 PM

      Arizona only has one NHL hockey team, no need to name it after a city. They were the Phoenix coyotes but play in Glendale, so it just made sense to change the name to the Arizona Coyotes.

      The major problem with the Phoenix market is most everyone that lives there is from somewhere else. If you’ve ever been to their games when Chicago comes to town all of the transplants come out of the woodwork. There are also a ton of Canadians that come to the Phoenix area during the winter months and you’ll see large turnouts for Edmonton and Calgary.

      Just look at the Cardinals, it took over 20 years to build a sustainable fan base in AZ. For as long as I can remember Cardinal home games were blacked out due to not selling out the games. Now for the last 3 years they sell out every game.

      I’m sure consistency and winning will help things out, but it’s going to be a hard nut to crack with so many transplants that root for their teams they left behind.

  3. ray2013 - Aug 11, 2014 at 4:11 AM

    If you protect Gagner with favourable zone starts and excellent wingers, he might play decently. But if is the #1c (is he on this team?) then all bets are off. He never had to play against top dmen, that’s always been the job of other oiler centres. I see him improving on his awful season, but he has never been a point per game player, and it’s hard to see him doing it this year.

  4. bullwinkle88 - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    It’s pretty clear Maloney is going after McDavid, not the playoffs. This team will compete with Buffalo for the worst record.

  5. thailer35 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Honestly as a coyotes fan, I’d be fine with tanking this year for Connor McDavid. That could be a huge attendance booster if we got him.

  6. goyotesgo11 - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    They are doomed without some offense. I’d go even so far as to move Yandle to forward. He has the skills, and could still be a good defensive forward at that, plus stay on the power play, which he excelled on last season. I’ve been a fan of hockey in Arizona for over 30 years, and it is a transient city. When you go to Wings games, you have half the crowd cheering for the Wings, which causes some altercations, but other than that not much fan support for the local team. I worked at the arena as an usher and saw the Canadian folks visiting Arizona go to the games, and they were shocked we did not sell out every game. Now, even when the Yotes went to the conference finals, the average attendance didn’t increase measurably. They sold out playoff games, but who doesn’t?
    We need a STAR player, someone who can take this team to new heights. OEL is that type of player, and will likely take over as captain when Doan hangs up his skates.
    If the owners are holding on to their money to get McDavid in the draft next year, I don’t approve of teams tanking on purpose to improve their draft position. I don’t think the way this team is made up that they will make the playoffs, even with the excellent coaching staff, and young prospects. Will Domi come in and score 30 goals? Highly unlikely. SO, either move Yandle to forward, or trade him for someone like Taylor Hall, who will score 30 goals. Hockey made simple, folks!

  7. restohpens - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:59 PM

    I thought Kassian broke Gagner’s jaw in a game, not training camp.

    • trmallen - Aug 14, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Preseason game.

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