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by Dave Strader / Arizona Coyotes
With the NHL Awards, the draft and the start of the free-agent signing period behind us, here are some random thoughts regarding the Coyotes and the NHL:

Coyotes sign Ray Whitney: I think this is a terrific signing, especially with the loss of center Matthew Lombardi, who signed with Nashville as an unrestricted free agent. Whitney is a winger, up there in age, but he still has tremendous skills. He will certainly help the power play. His 21 goals, seven power-play goals and 58 points last season in Carolina would have ranked fourth, second and second, respectively, on the Coyotes in 2009-10. He also appeared in 80 games, which is a good sign for a 38-year-old.

Coyotes land Brandon Gormley with 13th overall draft pick: What a great time to have a young defenseman, ranked in the top-six overall on just about everyone’s draft list, fall to No. 13. Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said it best - sometimes you need to be lucky on draft day! Gormley may not be ready for the NHL in 2010-11, but along with last season’s first-round pick, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are continuing to build a nice stable of young talent. Coyotes fans can get their first in-person look at Gormley this weekend at the team's Prospect Development Camp in Peoria. Click here for more information.

Bob Probert.
►  Bob Probert passes away at age 45: I started my broadcast career in the NHL in the 1985-86 season as the voice of the Detroit Red Wings. It was a disastrous season for the Wings, who managed a franchise record-low of 40 points. During that season, Bob Probert made his NHL debut. The very next season, the Red Wings made it all the way to the conference finals against the mighty Edmonton Oilers. A big part of the resurgence of the Wings was the play of Probert and the new identity he helped define. Along with Joe Kocur, Probert made the Wings the NHL’s most intimidating team. Detroit went on to face the Oilers again in the 1988 conference finals. Probert scored 29 goals that season, had 398 PIMs and made the All-Star team. His problems off the ice were well documented and certainly cut short the number of seasons he would have been a dominant player. Mitch Albom, the renowned writer for the Detroit Free Press, has a terrific article on Probie entitled “Bob Probert's tough story ended far too soon.” Click here to read it.

I have many fond memories calling Red Wings’ games from 1985-96. My partner Mickey Redmond was a skill player in his day and won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens as a teammate of John Ferguson. Mick knew and appreciated the role of an enforcer on any hockey team. If you go to YouTube and search any of Probert fights, you’re likely to hear some old Redmond-Strader calls from our PASS Sports and WKBD-TV50 days!

Shane Doan.
Shane Doan and Dave Tippett earn NHL awards: This falls into the “No Surprise” category. Doan received the King Clancy Memorial Trophy that goes “to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.” Tippett earned the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. Both Doan and Tippett have always exemplified the qualities needed to win these respective awards, but to do what they did in the context of everything that was happening around the Coyotes’ franchise was truly remarkable. I know coaches and players always say “I can only control what I can control” - and no one could control the ownership/bankruptcy mess that began back in May 2009 - but Doan and Tippett kept that situation out of the dressing room. Click here to watch an interview with Doan after he won the trophy.

Zbynek Michalek signs with Pittsburgh & Matthew Lombardi signs with Nashville: This was not a total surprise to me. “Z” was in a great position to get a huge offer. He’s the perfect complimentary player for a championship caliber team. When Pittsburgh lost Sergei Gonchar to Ottawa, that created a perfect scenario for “Z.” Five years at $4 million per year was not a contract Maloney could afford to match.

Lombardi also put himself into position for a substantial raise. I thought $3.5 million per year was an area that Lombo might get to and it’s a fair price. With that being said, it’s important to remember that every team goes through these transitions in today’s NHL (just look at the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks). It’s a challenge but it also means great opportunities will develop for someone else – such as Ekman-Larsson, Kyle Turris, Mikael Boedker and Maxim Goncharov – to step up.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back again later this summer with more…
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