The Coyotes have added a goalie, a defenseman and a forward via free agency over the past two days, but General Manager Don Maloney says the team is not done looking for new players.
Next on the shopping list is a skilled scorer.
“I think we’ve really helped our team so far, but every day we keep trying to make us better and we still have some work to do,” Maloney told me during a brief lunch break in his office on Wednesday. “We have room in our budget to add more players. We’re looking to find more skill and scoring. But I’m in no rush. We have lots of time before the puck drops in October.”
Maloney also is looking to add a tough guy to the roster.
Maloney’s eyes lit up as he looked at the team’s defensive depth chart hanging on a wall on his office, which included the name Adrian Aucoin
“We’ve got a very sound defense,” Maloney said. “It certainly rivals most in our conference.”
Phoenix signed Aucoin, a seasoned veteran who eats up minutes, to a one-year contract on Wednesday morning. Maloney thinks the soon-to-be 36-year-old blueliner with a pwerful right-handed shot will be a perfect complement to young defensemen including Keith Yandle
and Sami Lepisto.
Before signing Aucoin, the Coyotes added two new players on Tuesday when they signed center Vern Fiddler and goalie Jason LaBarbera
to two-year deals.
LaBarbera instantly moves into the backup role behind Ilya Bryzgalov, knocking Al Montoya and Josh Tordjman down on the depth chart.
“We entered this free-agent period looking to fill specific roles and holes in our lineup,” Maloney said. “The first was the goaltender. We wanted somebody behind Bryzgalov with some experience. We really like what Montoya is bringing and we think he is maturing, and we think Tordjman is maturing too, but we don’t think they are quite ready to be regular goaltenders and win NHL games on a consistent basis. We think Jason is a guy who can come in and win hockey games for us at a price that makes sense to us."
Maloney knows LaBarbera from when both were with the New York Rangers organization.
“He’s a guy that’s gotten a taste of being a No.1 goaltender and he wants to get back there,” Maloney said. “He’s got a great work ethic and I think he’s going to push Bryzgalov.”
In Fiddler, Maloney feels the team acquired much-needed help in the faceoff circle and on the penalty-killing unit. Fiddler won 54 percent of his draws last season.
“He will definitely helps us in those areas, plus we think with the additional responsibilities he will get here with us that he can be more than just a third- or fourth-line faceoff guy and penalty killer.”
He added, “Vern’s a very competitive and combative player. Every time I watched us play Nashville, he was one of those guys you say ‘I hate that guy.’ That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
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