The Phoenix Coyotes surprised everyone during the 2011-2012 season, making a deep playoff run and proving that they belong among the elite teams in the Western Conference.
It is no secret that things in Phoenix are not rainbows and butterflies this offseason, to say the least, but the team needs to capitalize on the success of last season.
Here are five moves the Coyotes need to make this offseason to stay in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.
5. Add role players on offense
The Coyotes are hurting up front. Mike Smith kept the 'Yotes in games and if the team could never compete if he was having an off night.
Radim Vrbata was the teams primary goal scorer, putting up a career-high 35 last season, but the team cannot rely on Vrbata sustaining that role for years to come. Most of his success this year was built off the playmaking ability of Ray Whitney, who may leave in free agency.
The acquisition of Raffi Torres was a big one last offseason. Torres provided grit and veteran leadership for the Coyotes, and even managed to find the back of the net in many clutch situations.
Vrbata, Whitney and Torres are all shinning examples of coach Dave Tippett's system. None of these players were superstars on their other teams, but they excelled in the team-first system.
These are the kind of players the Coyotes should look for this offseason. Not superstars who want the equipment guy to shine their alligator boots in the locker room before they jump in their Maserati. Guys that will embrace their role on the team and help the team get production all over the roster.
It may be hard to lure free agents to the desert, where the ownership and relocation issues lurk, but you can be sure Coyotes management will try.
4. Retain the Wizard
Ray Whitney is an unrestricted free agent and is 40-years-old. Is he playing like a 40-year-old though.
Whitney will command a lot of attention this offseason. The Wizard put up ridiculous numbers, not only for someone his age, but anyone. Whitney put up a team-high 77 points and ranked sixth in the NHL in assist. Not to mention his veteran leadership will be valued.
Fans became enamored with Whitney during his time in Phoenix. Whether it was his goofy "Whitney face" in the background of interviews, or his dazzling passes on this ice: Coyotes fans embraced Whitney. He was one of those players that gave the franchise personality.
"Would we re-sign him? Absolutely, we'd re-sign him without question," Phoenix GM Don Maloney said. "Would we sign him for more than one year? Then we'd have to debate. What number would we sign him for? Then there's probably some debate."
Give the man a handsome one-year contract Maloney. You won't regret it.
3. Sign Smith to a multi-year deal
The Coyotes have expressed interest in signing Smith to a multi-year deal, but Smith has said he wants the ownership issue resolved before he signs on. Currently, Smith is scheduled to be a free agent after next season.
"Obviously I'd like to take a little step back here, see where the ownership's going to go," he told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf when asked about signing an extension in the near future.
Another step to keeping Smith would be to retain his goalie coach and friend, Sean Burke. Burke is regarded as being one of the best goalie coaches in the NHL, and keeping him will entice Smith to stay.
Smith had an absolutely ridiculous regular season, tallying 38 wins, eight shutouts and a 2.21 goals against average. He was a top five goalie in nearly every category.
Smith also played out of his mind in the playoffs. He was arguably the most valuable player, for any team, this postseason.
Coyotes fans remember the pain when Ilya Bryzgalov left last offseason. Smith quickly erased that agony, but Coyote fans cannot take another franchise goalie leaving in free agency.
2. Make Captain Coyote a Lifer
Remember a Coyotes team without Shane Doan? That because there hasn't been one.
The 35-year-old winger was drafted 7th overall by the then Winnipeg Jets in 1995. Doan then made the move with the Coyotes in 1996 to the desert and has been in a Coyotes' sweater ever since.
Doan took over as captain of the Coyotes during the 2003-04 season after the departure of Teppo Numminen. Doan is widely viewed as one of the best captains in the NHL. He exemplifies everything a captain should be and is the unquestioned leader of his pack.
Doan is the face of the franchise. A Mario Lemieux or Nicklas Lidstrom type.
"It's a unique situation we're in," Doan said. "He wanted me to know I was a priority, made me feel important but I also understand we have to be patient. I think my track record speaks for itself about how I feel about this franchise."
"They have been unbelievably open and honest and great with me and I can't say enough about how good they've been," Doan continued. "And yet their hands are so tied with the whole stumbling block that keeps popping up with the team, and that is frustrating."
Doan has felt some frustration about the ownership issues and would like to have them resolved before signing a multi-year deal.
Doan needs to finish his career as a Coyote and one day take his place in the rafters along side Jeremy Roenick Wayne Gretzky, Thomas Steen, Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, Teppo Numminen and Keith Tkachuk.
1. Get an owner. Stay in Phoenix.
There is not much to be said here. Hurdle after hurdle, the franchise is slowly on their way to finding a new owner and staying in Phoenix.
A steady owner, along with the threat relocation being removed will go a long way in attracting new free agents and keeping talent in the desert.
For more information on ownership issues check out a fans guide to the Phoenix Coyotes sale.