Coyotes’ roster overhaul begins in earnest with trade of Dubnyk
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Coyotes’ roster overhaul has begun in earnest. Arizona shipped backup goalie Devan Dubnyk to Minnesota on Wednesday for a 2015 third-round draft pick.
Dubnyk will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. He signed a one-year, $800,000 deal in the offseason, so the move made sense for the Coyotes. He wasn’t going to be back anyway and the Coyotes acquired a fairly high pick for a backup goalie.
"I thought it was a decent asset to acquire for a guy who admittedly played really well for us," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said. "Not only does it give us a good draft pick moving forward, it allows us to take a look at some young goaltenders in our system."
The move also makes it clear the Coyotes will ride starter Mike Smith, despite his season-long struggles. Smith currently owns the worst save percentage (.885) and worst goals-against average (3.52) in the NHL among qualifying goalies. Dubnyk outplayed him this season, but Smith has four years remaining on a six-year, $34 million deal he signed in 2013. He also has a no-move clause through next season and a no-trade clause that kicks in the following season and runs through 2018-19, further limiting the Coyotes’ options.
"We’re going to give him the ball, for good or bad," Maloney said. "We have to get Mike back to where we believe he can be."
Maloney said Mike Lee will fill the backup role for the time being, but 6-foot-3 Louis Domingue likely will get a look at some point soon. Goalie coach Sean Burke loves his raw tools and is happy with Domingue’s development.
"He’s a big guy who moves well and plays the puck really well," Burke said this week.
Domingue broke his wrist and suffered a concussion in a violent collision with Albany’s Paul Thompson on Nov. 5 in Portland, but he is healthy now. The concern was that Portland is playing in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador so the long road trip would make it difficult for Domingue to join the team in time for Thursday’s game against Calgary in Glendale.
Lee, who had offseason hip surgery, has been recalled from Gwinnett of the ECHL, but Domingue could join the team on its upcoming three-game trip to Minnesota, Winnipeg and Chicago.
Mark Visentin, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, had season-ending surgery on his ankle just before Christmas after initially injuring the ankle in Coyotes training camp.
Maloney said it is too early to tell whether any of the backup options could earn that permanent role for next season.
"It’s pretty clear that we’re going to need Mike to be the man and ride him pretty hard," Maloney said, "But as far as the young guys winning a spot, that’s what this evaluation period is for," he said.
Dubnyk came to Arizona off a disastrous season in which he lost the starting job with the Edmonton Oilers, was traded twice and finished the season in the minors. The Coyotes were confident that with the guidance of Burke, the 6-foot-6 Dubnyk could turn things around.
In 19 games this season, Dubnyk went 9-5-2 with a 2.72 goals against average, a .916 save percentage and a shutout.
"He has improved on his positioning, his patience and his confidence is back," Burke said.
Minnesota’s goaltending is the biggest reason last season’s biggest playoff surprise has been such a disappointment. Niklas Backstrom has a 3.04 goals against average and an .887 save percentage, and he’s allowed 30 goals in his last eight starts. Darcy Kuemper has a 2.68 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. The Wild allowed the fourth fewest shots in the league this season (27.2 per game) through Tuesday but is tied with Edmonton for the league’s worst overall save percentage (.887).
The Wild are just five points ahead of the Coyotes in the Western Conference standings and eight points out of a playoff spot. With Kuemper on injured reserve, Minnesota felt that it needed to make a move.
"We’re at a very critical time right now," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "We’ve got to stabilize here. We’ve got to find a way to win a game."
Trade possibilities have been a regular discussion with Maloney since it became clear the team would not challenge for a playoff spot this season. Maloney said it’s fair to say that this deal, which materialized quickly, could be the first of several.
"At one point, there was a thought to see where we were at the trade deadline, but we’re just not happy with where we are as an organization," said Maloney, who met with new majority owner Andrew Barroway on Wednesday. "His whole mindset is: How do we build a winner and what’s the timeline for building a winner?"
Maloney said there was no update on contract negotiations with Antoine Vermette, but he has a "pretty good idea about the market value on a lot of our players."
In addition to Vermette, forward Martin Erat and defenseman Zbynek Michalek are the team’s other key unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
"We struggled to survive for so long but now, having stable ownership means we have a long-term plan," Maloney said. "That may result in some long nights ahead of us but ultimately, the goal is to get where L.A. and Anaheim and Chicago are — to become a perennial playoff team."