Martin Hanzal’s impending free agency will worry some, but his apparent desire to stay with the Coyotes, as well as his ability to take on a key top-six role, should see him stick around in Arizona.
The trade deadline is still several months away, but the Arizona Coyotes might already have to start wondering about what to do with Martin Hanzal.
Hanzal, 29, has said that he no longer intends to talk contract with the Coyotes because he simply wants to focus on 2016-17 campaign and the task at hand, which is helping Arizona see some improvement in their on-ice results after a second-consecutive season with a record below .500. In speaking with AZCentral’s Sarah McLellan, Hanzal said that were contract talks to continue throughout the season, they would likely become a distraction and he’s hoping to avoid anything that will take his mind off of the Coyotes’ season.
“I want to stay here, but (shutting down talks) was the plan if we don’t get it done before the season,” Hanzal said, according to McLellan. “But hey, I understand. It’s just business and if I wouldn’t have signed right now, we’ll see what happens. Obviously I want to stay but again, I want to shut it down because of the hockey.”
As it stands, Hanzal is in the final season of a five-year, $15.5-million deal he inked with Arizona back in October 2011, and the contract is set to pay him $3.5 million this season, according to CapFriendly. If Hanzal were to remain unsigned throughout the campaign and well into June, he would be able to explore the open market and sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017.
Coyotes GM John Chayka wasn’t about to concede that talks are through until the season is over, though. According to McLellan, Chayka said that it remains a process and pointed out that Hanzal has made the team “aware that he’d like to be back here,” but Chayka did admit that no deal with Hanzal was “imminent” right now.
The concern for the Coyotes is losing Hanzal for nothing come free agency. In that sense, Hanzal has Arizona in a situation similar to the position the Coyotes were in with Mikkel Boedker during the 2015-16 season. Boedker was set to become an unrestricted free agent, and rather than lose him for nothing, they sent the Danish winger to the Colorado Avalanche for Alex Tanguay and two prospects, one of whom was Conner Bleackley, who refused to sign with the Coyotes and resulted in the team receiving a compensatory second-round pick.
However, there’s one major difference between Boedker and Hanzal, and that’s the desire to stay in Arizona. During the late stages of Boedker’s stay with the Coyotes, it became clear that the two sides needed to part. Contract talks never progressed to a point where keeping him seemed possible — he turned down several offers, former GM Don Maloney said in February — and that led to Boedker being shipped out of town.
But by all accounts, Hanzal wants to remain in Arizona. That’s a great sign for the Coyotes, especially if they can piece together some wins this season, make a push for a wild-card spot and at least convince Hanzal that staying in Arizona is the right long-term move.
Hanzal offers something the Coyotes don’t have much of, either. He’s a stellar two-way player and one who has seen his share of action in the league. He’s played 23 post-season games with the Coyotes, has more than 500 NHL games to his name and is a perfect candidate to continue to take on a top-six center role as the incredibly youthful Coyotes grow over the next few seasons. It’s a leadership role that he would no doubt embrace moving forward, just as he has the past six seasons wearing an ‘A’ in Arizona.
So while contract talks with the Coyotes may be done for now, don’t count on that meaning the end of Hanzal in Arizona. He’s become too important to the club over the past few seasons and his apparent want and willingness to remain a Coyote should be a sign that something will get done.
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