GLENDALE – Goalie Mike Smith enjoys playing for the Coyotes so much that he passed on testing the unrestricted free-agent market that he could have become part of on July 5.
“I looked around at different situations throughout the League and saw the teams that looked like they were in need of goaltending, and after assessing the situation I think that the best fit was for me to stay in Phoenix and to work with the group that has made me very successful the last couple of years,” Smith said. “I do believe in the coaching staff and ‘Tip’ (Dave Tippett), and obviously ‘Burkie’ (Sean Burke) has been a huge influence on my career, so in the end I think I just felt a lot more comfortable with the situation in Phoenix, and moving forward I really believe we’re moving in the right direction.”
Smith signed a six-year contract extension on Monday.
The Coyotes gave Smith his first gig as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL in 2011-12 and he responded by setting career highs in wins (38), shutouts (8), goals-against average (2.21) and save percentage (.930). Last season, despite injuries, Smith won 15 games and posted five shutouts.
Smith said he was flattered that Tippett and Burke accompanied General Manager Don Maloney to the Vancouver area a few weeks ago when his contract extension talks got serious.
“It was a factor,” Smith said. “It showed great class in the organization from Don and right down through the coaching staff to come up and try to work a deal out. Obviously they showed great support in believing in me and I appreciate that, and I’m going to do my best to help bring some free agents into the Phoenix area and hopefully bring a winning atmosphere for here in the next six years.”
In addition to the coaching staff, Smith said he likes his teammates in Phoenix.
“We have a great group of guys in Phoenix and a great training staff and medical staff,” Smith said. “The whole group is just a great fit. We have a great mix of young players coming up that are going to be top players in this league for a long time and we have a great mix of older guys that show great leadership qualities... I’m happy with the group that we have and, like I said, I’d like to take my leadership to a new level and hopefully get some free agents in (here) in the upcoming days and help build a winning team.”