There is still time for the Coyotes and restricted free-agent forward Mikkel Boedker to come to terms on a new contract before training camp begins on Sept. 11. But the longer this current impasse persists, the more options the Coyotes will have to explore.
One of those options could be adding a significant free agent — which may come as a shock to a fan base accustomed to frugality despite the recent, hefty contracts paid to goalie Mike Smith and center Mike Ribeiro.
“We continue to look at all options,” assistant general manager Brad Treliving said Friday.
Reports surfaced recently that the team was close to signing free-agent forward Damien Brunner. Treliving shot those rumors down on Friday, saying there is no deal, nor is one imminent or in the works.
But the Coyotes have talked with Brunner’s agent, Neil Sheehy, just as they’ve talked to other free-agent options.
It’s well-known that the Coyotes would like to add another top-six forward to the lineup — likely a left wing to provide scoring punch. Rookies Max Domi, Chris Brown and Lucas Lessio will all be given a crack to win the job in camp, and there is also the possibility that the team could swing a trade during camp if the youngsters don’t appear ready.
But the need for offensive help will increase if Boedker isn’t in the fold.
Brunner, 27, is one of the more intriguing free agents left on the market. He totaled 26 points in 44 games last season with Detroit and nine points in 14 playoff games.
Granted, he got some playing time with the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, which would help just about anybody, and there are also questions about his toughness and grit at 5-feet-11, 184 pounds. But he showed creativity and skill in his first NHL season after coming over from Switzerland. As a versatile, top-six forward, he would provide insurance in case the Boedker negotiations drag into the season.
Boedker’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet, did not return a message left for him on Friday, but his client and the team are at an impasse over – what else — money. The Coyotes extended a qualifying offer to Boedker, 23, in early July. Since he made more than $1 million last season, the qualifying offer was for the same amount he made in 2013: $1.2 million.
Boedker elected not to file for salary arbitration. By avoiding arbitration, he might have been admitting that he didn’t have much of a case and that the award would have come back on the lower end.
The Coyotes still don’t know exactly what they have in Boedker. He fell short of production expectations last season when he scored seven goals and 26 points in 48 games. Much of that production came over the first half of the season when general manager Don Maloney referred to him as the likely team MVP. But in the Coyotes’ final 22 games, Boedker had just one goal and eight points.
As a restricted free agent, Boedker’s options are limited. A team could conceivably sign him to an offer sheet, but it’s fairly rare for that to occur and even then, the Coyotes likely would match it.
There is also the possibility of a holdout, which Treliving thought was highly unlikely earlier this summer, given his longstanding relationship with Bousquet.
Treliving still believes the team will get a deal done with Boedker, noting that Martin Hanzal signed his current, five-year, $15.5 million extension just before the 2011-12 season began. But the Coyotes won’t be sitting on their hands, hoping for that to happen.