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The Desert Dog Blog: Coyotes Re-Signed Korpikoski Minutes Before Arbitration Hearing

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE – The Coyotes and restricted free agent Lauri Korpikoski agreed to the terms of his new two-year contract about three minutes before his salary arbitration hearing was set to begin in Toronto on Wednesday morning.

Don Maloney presents Lauri Korpikoski the award for hardest-working player. Photo by Norm Hall.
I’m told negotiations between the Coyotes, Korpikoski and Korpikoski’s agent, Larry Kelly, were rekindled at about 8:45 EDT and a deal was struck 12 minutes later.

Avoiding arbitration hearings is a good thing for both sides, and last-minute deals are not uncommon.

"Lauri is a smart, versatile player who continues to mature," Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. "He played very well for us last season and I fully expect his game will continue to grow. We view Lauri as one of our core players and every team in the NHL would rather avoid arbitration with their key people. We are happy with the contract and look forward to great things from Lauri in the future."

With Korpikoski signed, the Coyotes will turn their attention toward signing unsigned RFAs Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov. Unlike Korpikoski, none of those three forwards are eligible for salary arbitration.

Korpikoski, who will turn 25 years old next week, had a breakthrough season in 2010-11 and he will play a key role in the team’s pursuit of a third consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Korpikoski can score goals, create offense for others, and kill penalties, and he’s a versatile winger who can play center if needed.

In addition, he is well-liked in the dressing room and well-respected for being a team player; he scored seven of his 19 goals last season after blocking a shot by Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien and suffering a broken foot bone in a game played on Feb. 17.

Korpikoski has said a big key to his success in 2010-11 was the confidence he played with based on the amount of playing time he was given. Unlike his first two NHL seasons, in which he scored just 11 goals, Korpikoski played as if he wasn’t afraid to make mistakes last season and it paid off. His 19 goals ranked second on the team only to captain Shane Doan, who scored 20.

Defensively, Korpikoski improved from a minus-10 in 2009-10 to a plus-17 in 2010-11.

Fans voted Korpikoski the team’s hardest-working player for 2010-11 and it meant a lot to him because he was the first Coyotes player to receive the award after the team renamed it in honor of Jukka Nieminen, the team’s long-time massage therapist who died in June of 2010. Korpikoski and Nieminen both were born in Finland.

►Click here to watch a video of Korpikoski talking about his breakthrough season in 2010-11.
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