Struggling Canadian dollar could hasten Coyotes’ rebuild

Coyotes general manager Don Maloney could be in a favorable position in free agency this offseason, due to world factors out of his control.

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Commissioner Gary Bettman tried to allay the fears of some big-market teams when he addressed the potential impact the struggling Canadian dollar could have on the 2015-16 salary cap.

"I assure you that even with the decline in the Canadian dollar, the salary cap doesn’t fall off a cliff," Bettman told reporters at Sunday’s NHL All-Star Game. "When we gave you the rough estimate projection in December — the same estimate that I gave to the clubs — we were projecting a cap of $73 million, assuming the 5-percent increment under the collective bargaining agreement, based on the Canadian dollar at 88 cents to the U.S. dollar for the rest of the year. 

"That would be 73 at 88. At 82 cents for the rest of the year, the cap would be 72.2, and at 80 cents, the cap would be 71.7. 

"These are not — in the context of a $70-million-plus cap — dramatic numbers. As of Friday, I think the Canadian dollar was 81 cents. Nobody can project exactly where it’s going, but the point that I’m making is you’re not going to see a dramatic difference. The cap is computed based on currency on a daily basis. It’s averaged over the season, so even as I said with an 80-cent Canadian dollar, we’re still looking at a cap of almost $72 million."

Even so, that small drop could have an impact on teams currently bumping up against the cap that have bigger salary commitments coming on the books next season. The contract extensions for Chicago superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both kick in next season when each will be paid an average of $10.5 million annually. Several other teams could have cap issues, as well.

If that happens, the Coyotes could be beneficiaries.

COYOTES at FLYERS

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Season series: Coyotes lead 1-0.
Records: Coyotes 16-25-5, Flyers 19-22-7
Injuries: Arizona F Mikkel Boedker (spleen surgery) could return to the Valley today but is out long term. Philadelphia F Michael Raffl (ill) and G Steve Mason (lower body) are day to day. D Kimmo Timonen (leg blood clots) hasn’t played all season. D Nicklas Grossman (lower body) and D Braydon Coburn (lower body) are on injured reserve.
Quick facts: The Coyotes recalled F Lucas Lessio and D Andrew Campbell from Portland of the AHL on Monday. … Flyers F Ryan White should make his Philadelphia debut. After signing as a free agent, he tore a pectoral muscle during offseason workouts and has missed the entire season to date. … C Antoine Vermette had two goals and an assist in the team’s only other meeting this season, a 4-2 Arizona win at Gila River Arena on Dec. 29. … Flyers winger Zac Rinaldo was suspended by the NHL for eight games Monday due to an illegal hit on Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang last Tuesday.

"Absolutely," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said on Monday. "Ideally for us, the Canadian dollar tanks and the cap goes down, not up."

Maloney was joking, it should be emphasized. He doesn’t want to see the Canadian economy collapse. He is Canadian, after all.

But the point remains: if more players make their way to the market as cap casualties, the Coyotes could hasten their rebuilding project by acquiring quality players in the Boychuk and Leddy vein.

"All in all for us in Arizona, ideally the cap stays flat or sees as little a raise as possible and that will create opportunities," Maloney said.

The Coyotes are better positioned than most teams. They have just five players under contract beyond next season: defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, goalie Mike Smith, center Martin Hanzal, wing Lauri Korpikoski and center Joe Vitale. 

Maloney said that fact was not a conscious decision, but more a product of the ownership uncertainty surrounding the team before last season. With financial flexibility and a long-term plan finally being instituted now that majority Andrew Barroway is in place, the Coyotes could look to fill some holes with veterans on defense while infusing more youth and speed into the forward group next season with prospects such as Max Domi. 

"We want to stay as flexible as possible and if we need to grow this thing and run at a low payroll for a couple years, so be it," he said. "I think you see the problems a lot of teams get into when they get tied into long-term contracts."

Flexibility should also allow the Coyotes to take care of players they feel are part of their future. Maloney had brief contract discussions with injured forward Mikkel Boedker’s agent last week and may engage in lengthier discussions soon. Boedker will be a restricted free agent after this season. He could choose a one-year deal after which he becomes unrestricted, but Maloney hopes to sign him to a longer deal.

"I spent the weekend with Andy (Barroway) at the All-Star Game and really got a sense of who he is and what he’s all about," Maloney said. "He really does want to do this right. He wants to build for the long term and he understands that there is some suffering involved to do what you need to do to build a winner that is sustainable."

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