While many were locked in on the Stanley Cup Finals, most notably the fate of Aaron Rome after his completely illegal hit on Boston's Nathan Horton, the NHL's most embattled club made major waves in the headlines, and for once, it didn't relate to the threat of relocation.
Unfortunately for the Coyotes and their fans, the one time they did get in the headlines for the actual team on the ice, it related to the departure of star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
The trade made major waves in the NHL, with the Coyotes dealing the rights to Bryzgalov, a restricted free agent, to the Philadelphia Flyers for some future considerations, a draft pick, and prospect Matt Clackson. It's definitely a major blow to the Coyotes, but is it actually as terrible as it seems? Find out what happens, after the jump.
According to some sources, Bryzgalov had absolutely no intention of re-signing in Phoenix. Given that they are a small market team, and are already in fiscal limbo, they just couldn't pony up the dough to bring back to former Vezina Trophy candidate. Initial reports had him demanding 10 years and somewhere between seven and eight million dollars a year.
Signing him might be easier said than done for the Flyers, who need to do it before July 1st to avoid allowing other teams to make their own free agent pitches to the Russian netminder. The Flyers are nearly at the brink of the salary cap, and while it is expected to go up, they're going to have to dump quite a bit of salary in order to sign him to the contract he wants.
Of course, once those wounds heal from Bryz's departure, the focus will immediately shift to who could replace him. There are several names, but the one thing we do know is Jason LaBarbera's two-year deal signed earlier this week means nothing more than the fact that he will be the Coyotes' backup next season. Yotes fans would surely cringe at the idea of Barbs starting between the pipes.
It's a thin free agent market out there this summer, but there are some names to be had, such as Marty Turco. Turco spent this last season in Chicago, losing his starting job to Corey Crawford, but not because he was completely awful. Crawford played out of his mind most of the year and Turco's puck-handling style of play didn't really work with Chicago's offensive defensemen.
Turco would be a cheap option for the Coyotes and is a fantastic presence in the locker room, as he demonstrated in Chicago, but it's unlikely he'd be able to carry this team throughout the course of an entire season.
There's also Tomas Vokoun, easily the top unrestricted free agent goalie on the market. Having been stuck in hockey hell with the Panthers for the last few seasons, Vokoun could be looking to make waves in a larger market for a team with a decent shot at a Stanley Cup. Not that the Coyotes don't have a decent shot, but see: larger market.
There are restricted free agent options. James Reimer is likely to be retained by Toronto, but is still a possiblity, and Semyon Varlamov has shown flashes of brilliance in Washington. If they seek a trade, Vancouver's Corey Schneider could be an option, as he is signed through next season.
The fact is, that there are other goaltending options for the Coyotes. After Bryzgalov's disappointing performance in the playoffs in an atmosphere with virtually no pressure, it will be interesting to see how he handles the heavy pressure of a bigger, Cup-starved market like Philly, should they lock him up.
But Bryz leaving does have its benefits for the Coyotes. They don't have to worry about his contract now, nor do they have to worry about paying Ed Jovanovski obscene amounts of money anymore. That frees up plenty of cash for the team to improve this offseason. The biggest focus for the Yotes now shifts to Keith Yandle, who is also a restricted free agent. Dan Maloney has been quite assertive in saying that Yandle will be retained, and the Coyotes have just a touch over three weeks to get him locked up.
So Coyote fans, mourn if you must. As a Blackhawks fan, I can sympathize all day after losing a fan favorite (Dustin Byfuglien), especially one that really provided most of the star power for this club. But with some money to work with and other goaltending options out there, the Coyotes could actually emerge from this as a stronger team.