Contract talks moving slowly between Coyotes, Boedker

Mikkel Boedker passes on arbitration; contract talks continue with Coyotes.

Mikkel Boedker was not among the NHL's restricted free agents who filed for salary arbitration by Thursday’s deadline. That doesn’t mean all is peachy in negotiations between the Coyotes and Boedker’s agents, Kevin Epp and Jarrett Bousquet.

Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving and Bousquet continue to talk, but Treliving said Thursday evening that a gap still exists between what the team believes Boedker should be paid and what Boedker’s camp believes the speedy forward is worth.

“The good news is that we’re not necessarily locked into one specific position,” Treliving said. “There’s always a number of ways to skin a cat, but we’ve got to find a deal that works for both sides.”

It’s interesting that Boedker’s representatives elected not to file for salary arbitration. The Coyotes extended a qualifying offer to Boedker, 23, last week. Since he made more than $1 million last season, the qualifying offer was for the same amount Boedker made in 2013: $1.2 million. 

Had his agents filed for arbitration, they likely would have been locked into an award somewhere between that number and what they are asking. By avoiding arbitration, Boedker’s agents could be admitting that he wouldn’t have much of a case and that the award would have come back on the lower end.

"Every player and every situation is different, but we felt that arbitration maybe wasn't in Mikkel's best interest," Bousquet said. "We've been negotiating in good faith, and we're just trying to inch closer to a deal."

A pair of recent contracts may serve as comparables for Boedker. New York Rangers wing Carl Hagelin, 24, got a two-year, $4.5-million deal to avoid arbitration after notching 10 goals and 24 points, and Florida’s Shawn Matthias, 25, got two years and $3.5 million after scoring a career-high 14 goals (21 points).

The Coyotes still don’t know what they have in Boedker. He fell short of the production expectations the Coyotes set for him last season. He had seven goals and 26 points in 48 games, but much of that production came over the first half of the season when GM Don Maloney said Boedker was likely the team’s MVP. 

In the Coyotes’ final 22 games, Boedker has just one goal and eight points. But Bousquet noted there were a number of other Phoenix players who slumped over the second half of the season, robbing the team of a chance to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

"I watched every game, and if you watch all the other things that don't show up on the stat sheet, he was still playing well," Bousquet said. "The production wasn't there, but he was doing a lot of other things to help the team."

Although lines have not been determined, the Coyotes' signing of free-agent center Mike Ribeiro could help Boedker by allowing him to play with more top-end skill, thereby increasing the production the Coyotes desperately need from him.

"From the player's point of view, we believe if he can play with players like that, the sky's the limit for Mikkel," Bousquet said.

Treliving had hoped to have the contract done by now, as Phoenix did for restricted free agents Lauri Korpikoski (four years, $10 million) and Michael Stone (three years, $3.45 million), but unless the talks drag on long enough to become a distraction, there is little concern on either side's part.

“We don’t start (training) camp for another two months and the regular season for another three months, so there really is nothing in terms of a significant time pressure for us,” Treliving said. “We’re going to do something that’s fair and hopefully fair for Mikkel, too. We haven’t been able to bridge it yet, but I feel very confident we’re going to get a deal done.”