GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said Wednesday that the club is close to terminating forward Gilbert Brule’s contract after he refused an assignment to Portland of the AHL recently and was suspended without pay.
Brule signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Coyotes in November and took part in training camp on a professional tryout. When he was cut, he accepted a pro tryout with Portland. Before signing with Phoenix, he pondered signing with a team in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia but opted to continue his pursuit of an NHL career.
"I think he’s just tired of all the call-ups and being sent down and living out of a suitcase or living in a hotel," Maloney said. "Even though he’s still a relatively young person (27), he’s been around our program for a long time. I think he’s had enough and just wants to get on with his life, head to Canada and maybe become a firefighter."
Brule was also with the team in 2011-12, posting five goals and 14 points in 33 games and two goals and an assist in 12 playoff games.
Maloney said the club will make a decision within the next week. Assistant GM Brad Treliving and Brule’s agent are currently in Europe, but when they return, the sides will convene to make sure Brule has not changed his mind.
"It’s his decision, it’s his life, and there’s always a question of will he have a change of heart, but this is the third time he’s had to think about whether he wants to play, so as far as I’m concerned, enough is enough," Maloney said. "There’s a certain protocol to terminate his contract that we will initiate shortly."
Starting with Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Oilers, the Coyotes play 14 of their final 20 games before the Olympic break at Jobing.com Arena.
Phoenix is in eighth place in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of Dallas and four points ahead of slumping Minnesota but just three points behind seventh-place Colorado and four behind sixth-place Vancouver with two games in hand on the Canucks.
Needless to say, this is a crucial stretch for the Coyotes, one that allows them the opportunity to make significant gains on the teams they’re trailing.
"Everybody talks about the playoff push, which is mid-March to the end of the season, where every point becomes very valuable," coach Dave Tippett said. "If you look at the way our schedule is set up because of the Olympic break, this is a crucial stretch for us."
Tippett said defenseman Rusty Klesla should be available for Thursday’s game against the Blue Jackets. Captain Shane Doan is skating but still needs to rebuild his endurance and conditioning after a long layoff battling a form of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Forward David Moss took a maintenance day on Wednesday but is fine.
Scouting the Jackets: After matching their longest win streak of the season at three games, the Jackets have lost two in a row (Pittsburgh, Colorado) by 5-3 scores. Special teams have been a problem. The Columbus power play is clicking at just 16.7 percent and the penalty-killing unit is tied for fifth-worst in the league at 79 percent. Center Ryan Johansen leads the team with 16 goals and 32 points.