Defenseman Alex Goligoski signed a five-year, $27.375 million contract with the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, the first major move made by new general manager John Chayka.
The agreement came six days after Arizona acquired Goligoski's negotiating rights from the Dallas Stars. The 30-year-old defenseman could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The contract has an average annual value of $5.475 million.
Goligoski helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009, and Chayka, the youngest GM in NHL history, is banking Goligoski will help the Coyotes do what he helped the Stars do during his time in Dallas: Transform a team that consistently has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs into one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
"We were on his 'no-trade' list a year ago, but our ownership group is doing a great job of making this a destination for players," said Chayka, 26, who was hired on May 5. "Alex has played with players with elite offensive abilities and some of the best shutdown players as well. He's a mature, durable puck-mover who can play in all situations, including closing out a lead late in the game."
Although temperatures in Arizona were approaching 120 degrees Monday when Goligoski arrived to begin negotiations, he said it didn't take long for him to realize he was in the right place.
"This whole process was about finding the right fit and knowing I was going to be somewhere for multiple years," he said. "I want to be part of a team that can grow and grow quickly. [Arizona] checked all the boxes for me and just getting down there and meeting everyone, almost immediately it felt right and like home. It was an easy decision."
Goligoski said the young core of Arizona's roster, led by fellow defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, as well as the expectations for high-level prospects in Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak, have him confident the Coyotes can make a quick jump in the standings. Arizona has failed to qualify for the playoffs since 2012, when it advanced to the Western Conference Final.
"They have things headed in the right direction with the players they have and players they still have coming," he said. "They are going to grow quick. You see these young guys come in, and it doesn't take them two, three years anymore. If they are good players, they make immediate impact. They aren't short on talent. There's a lot to like.
"When I got to Dallas, it was the same situation. The ownership thing was a little shaky and the team was at a crossroads. I've seen how fast it can happen, and in a similar market. The guys they have, the guys they have coming and the financial freedom they have [Arizona is well under the salary cap floor], they are in a great position to make some great moves and compete really soon."
Goligoski and Ekman-Larsson are left-handed shots, meaning they're unlikely to be paired on a regular basis. But with fellow defensemen Connor Murphy, Michael Stone and Klas Dahlbeck, and more moves likely during the offseason, the Coyotes are looking for a quick transformation in an area that was a weak point in 2015-16.
Chayka said trading for Goligoski's rights was "a calculated risk," and he had no real sense whether the defenseman would sign with Arizona or wait to test free agency.
With Goligoski signed, Chayka can turn his attention to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, which begins Friday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The Coyotes have the seventh and 20th picks in the first round and two more picks (Nos. 37 and 53) in the second round. He said Arizona is talking with other teams about possible moves that can provide immediate help.
"We knew Alex was going to have a very competitive market and this was the kind of player we really needed to have," he said. "We plan to be active and add to our team and hopefully there are things out there that make sense to us and the other side. Those decisions usually happen at the draft table."