The best and worst Coyotes free-agent signings

With Mike Ribeiro’s buyout stunning the NHL world on Friday, we decided to take a look back at the best and worst free-agent signings in Coyotes history. 

While GM Don Maloney takes the collar for the worst of the worst, his overall track record is good, as you will see below. The same can’t be said for his predecessor, Mike Barnett, who is responsible for three of the worst and none of the best.

1. C Mike Ribeiro: Maloney signed Ribeiro for four years and $22 million on July 5, 2013, to finally address the team’s longstanding need for a play-making center. He played one season, scored 16 goals and totaled 47 points in 80 games. He was benched for two games for a lack of production late in the season, then the Coyotes opted to buy him out on the eve of the NHL Draft, citing behavioral issues. That move will cost the Coyotes $1.94 million each of the next six seasons.

Mike Ribeiro did not work out in his one season in Arizona.

2. W Tony Amonte: Barnett signed Amonte on July 12, 2002, for four years and $24 million. Without a play-making center to get him the puck like he had in Chicago when he racked up six straight 30-plus goal seasons, Amonte struggled. He scored 13 goals and 36 points in 59 games before he was traded to Philadelphia on March 10, 2003, for Guillaume Lefebvre, a third-round draft choice (Tyler Redenbach) in 2003 and second-round draft choice (Brandon Dubinsky) in 2004.  

3. W Claude Lemieux: Soon-to-be-fired GM Bobby Smith signed Lemieux on Dec. 2, 2000, for three years and about $9 million. Lemieux was one of many in the infamous FOG (Friends of Gretzky) who found a home and a payday in the Valley while Wayne Gretzky was part owner. He played two-plus seasons and actually had a decent 2001-02 campaign with 16 goals and 41 points, but he was past his prime when he arrived, the pay seemed out of whack and the signing smacked of cronyism. He was traded to Dallas on Jan. 16, 2003 for Scott Pellerin and a conditional draft choice.

4. W Petr Nedved: Barnett signed Nedved on Aug. 26, 2004, for three years and $8.7 million, Nedved played just 25 games (he lost his first season due the lockout), totaling two goals and nine assists. He was traded on Jan. 20, 2006 for defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.

Coyotes wish list

5. W Brett Hull: Barnett signed the 41-year-old Hull on Aug. 6, 2004, to a two-year, $4.5 million deal. In 1,264 NHL games, Hull amassed 741 goals and 649 assists for 1,390 points, but only one of those points (an assist) came with Phoenix. Realizing he had nothing left in the tank or heart, Hull retired after just five games.

1. G Mike Smith: Maloney signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal on July 1, 2011. The shift to an unproven starter raised eyebrows after the Coyotes allowed Ilya Bryzgalov to walk in free agency. All Smith did was lead the Coyotes to their first division title, their first playoff series win and their first conference final, posting a 2.21 goals against and a .930 save percentage in the regular season before topping those numbers in the postseason with a 1.99 goals against average and a staggering .944 save percentage.  

2. W Ray Whitney: Maloney signed Whitney on July 1, 2010, to a two-year, $6 million deal. In two seasons, Whitney amassed 41 goals and 134 points, leading the team with 77 points his second season as the Coyotes won the Pacific Division title and advanced to the Western Conference Final against eventual champ Los Angeles. He departed in free agency after that season, signed a two-year, $9 million deal with Dallas.

Not only did Mike Smith provide value in first contract but earned a second from the Coyotes.

3. W Rick Tocchet: Smith signed Tocchet to a three-year, $6.45 million deal on July 8, 1997. In those three seasons, Tochhet had 64 goals, 130 points and gave the Coyotes toughness and leadership — on and off the ice — earning the respect of younger stars Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick while becoming a fan favorite.

4. C Cliff Ronning: Ronning signed a two-year deal as a free agent (money not available) on July 2, 1996, for the Coyotes’ first season in the Valley and had 19 goals and 52 points that year. He was a character guy, a good faceoff man and an excellent defender who amassed 32 goals and 113 points in 156 games in Phoenix. 

5. C Boyd Gordon: Maloney signed Gordon to a two-year, $2.65 million deal on July 1, 2011. Gordon was a penalty-killing whiz, a fearless shot-blocker with a body full of dents and bruises, and a top-notch faceoff man who finished seventh in the league in that category his first year (56.8 percent) and eighth in his final season (57.3 percent). 

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