Sources: NHL, Coyotes finalizing deal for Maloney

Coyotes GM Don Maloney, whose contract was set to expire June 30, to get new deal from NHL.

The first domino in the Coyotes’ pivotal offseason is set to fall. And it appears it will fall in the right direction.

Multiple sources have confirmed that the NHL and team are finalizing a new contract for general manager Don Maloney. The terms of the deal are not yet known, nor is a timeline for an announcement.

Maloney’s contract was set to expire on June 30, and it was originally thought that he would not receive a new deal until the franchise's current owner, the NHL, had found a new owner. But the league, recognizing the importance of having a general manager for the upcoming NHL Draft, free agency and myriad other reasons, took care of one very important order of business.

The next step, sources say, is to work out a deal with coach Dave Tippett, whose contract also expires on June 30, before turning their attention to negotiations with goalie Mike Smith, who is believed to be asking for a long-term contract with an annual payment between $6 million and $7 million.

Maloney was sure to have some suitors if he became available on July 1. Not only have he and Tippett guided the franchise to its three highest point totals in its 33-year history as well as its deepest playoff run, they’ve done it on a shoestring budget with a dearth of top-end scoring talent. 

It’s unknown what specific assurances Maloney has received that he will have more money to spend on the open market, but sources have said every ownership group currently in the mix has vowed to increase payroll enough to make the team competitive. Neither Maloney nor Tippett expects the Coyotes to suddenly leap into the top half of the league’s payroll, but “we can’t continue to operate under these circumstances,” Maloney said in a press conference after the season ended.

Added Tippett: “I know that this is not going to be a cap-busting team, but to me, if you build it right, you give yourself an opportunity to be a good team and then there are chances where an owner says, ‘OK, we can expand (payroll) a little because you’ve earned the right to expand a little. You’ve got to be competitive in the money part of it, but you don’t have to blow your brains out to win. That being said, there’s spending to the cap limit and there’s the bottom. Being at the bottom makes it difficult.”

According to Maloney, the Coyotes finished with the lowest payroll (about $49 million) in the Western Conference and second-lowest in the NHL, with only the Islanders spending less. That allowed them little room to improve the club after a run to the Western Conference finals in 2012 while also magnifying 2013 free-agent misses on Matthew Lombardi and Steve Sullivan.

But with a new owner, the Coyotes would likely be able to explore new revenue streams that have been neglected during the NHL's tenure as owner due to a smaller staff. In addition, the league's new CBA will eliminate some of the restrictions on revenue sharing, putting the Coyotes in line for a larger share of that pie.   

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