GLENDALE - Restricted free agent Anthony Duclair had contract options with the Coyotes, and he chose to sign a one-year deal with the team on Sunday. He's hoping the decision will pay off in the long run, after he re-establishes himself as an NHL goal scorer.
"I just want to prove myself on this one-year deal," Duclair said. "Obviously last season was a little rough for myself. It was a good learning experience, but at the same time I just want to prove this year that I can play at an elite level like I did in my rookie season, and hopefully have a better contract next summer."
Duclair scored 20 goals for the Coyotes as an NHL freshman in 2015-16. Last season, Duclair struggled to score and was demoted to the American Hockey League. He netted just five goals for the Coyotes in 58 games.
"Nobody is putting more pressure on myself than me," said Duclair, who, after watching video clips of his game last season, plans to shoot the puck more this season. "I'm happy where I'm at right now and I feel like I'm in really good shape to have a great year … I just need to get the puck and use my speed more to my advantage and drive to the net more. Creating that offense for myself is definitely going to help."
The Coyotes presented Duclair with three contracts featuring various salary figures and terms.
"For us, we kind of wanted to present the player with some different options and allow him to make a decision of what he felt was best for him and his career, and ultimately he made that decision," Coyotes General Manager John Chayka said. "Our stance was if he wanted term and dollars, it would be on our terms or he could have the option of taking the one-year deal and kind of earn that right. He took the one-year option and we're glad in some ways because now he's going to go out and earn it."
Chayka is hoping new head coach Rick Tocchet, who has vowed to let the team's young prospects play freely, will help Duclair, 22, restore his confidence and scoring touch.
"The sky's the limit for this player but he's got to apply himself and he's got to do it, and that's what this contract is about - let's get him back on the horse and let's get him playing the way we know he can and then that spawns from there," Chayka said. " ... He's a pretty unique player. He's a shooter, he's a goal scorer, but he's got a touch with the puck and he can make plays. It's more about using his skating to be more involved, and that's Rick Tocchet's system. So, if he can use his skating to put pressure on defenses and turn pucks over, and if that leads to him spending more time in the offensive zone with talented players, they can set him up and he can put them in the net. It's just a holistic approach. You've got to be committed to 200 feet of the ice and 'Toc' is going to push him to do that."
Duclair is eager to play for Tocchet, who helped lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups as an assistant coach.
"I'm really excited for our new coach to come in, especially with the experience he's had the last two years with Pittsburgh," Duclair said. "You can see what he did with the star players there. I'm really excited just to learn from him and see what he has to offer us. An offensive-minded coach really plays in my favor."