The Phoenix Coyotes have locked up their top off-season priority, signing goalie Mike Smith to a six-year deal that averages around $5.7 million US per season.
Smith and the Coyotes agreed to the deal over the weekend and received approval of the contract from the NHL on Monday.
The 31-year-old Smith had mostly been a backup before leading the Coyotes to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 2011-12, his first season as Phoenix's No. 1 goalie. Smith was about to become a free agent and had been waiting for clarity on the Coyotes' ownership situation before signing.
The City of Glendale is set to vote on a lease agreement with Renaissance Sports & Entertainment on Tuesday, the last major hurdle in the group's attempt to buy the franchise from the NHL.
"We are pleased to sign Mike to a multi-year contract," Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said in a statement. "Mike has emerged as a top NHL goaltender with his size, athletic ability and strong work ethic. He is capable of leading us to a Stanley Cup championship, the goal of our franchise. This is an important signing for our Club."
Smith signed with Phoenix in 2011 after spending the previous six seasons with Dallas and Tampa Bay.
He was stellar in his first true shot at being a No. 1 goalie, winning 38 games with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and a franchise-record-tying eight shutouts. The Coyotes won their first division title in 33 years as an NHL franchise and went to the conference finals for the first time that season.
Smith wasn't quite as good in the final year of his contract, going 15-12-5 with a 2.58 goals-against average and a save percentage of .910 while fighting injuries during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Coyotes finished four points out of the West's final playoff spot.
Preference to stay in Phoenix
He is 53-30-15 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.33 GAA in two seasons in Phoenix. His 13 career shutouts are fifth all-time in franchise history.
Smith likely would have been one of the top goalies in the free agency market, but said his preference was to stay in Phoenix as long as there was clarity in the team's ownership.
The NHL has agreed to sell the franchise to RSE, but the deal is contingent upon the group working out a lease agreement with Glendale for Jobing.com Arena. Tuesday's vote is still in doubt, leaving open the possibility that the franchise could be relocated — the NHL has indicated that would be the likely next option — but Smith decided to sign anyway.
"I'm thrilled to re-sign with the Coyotes," Smith said. "We have a great young team and an excellent coaching staff and management team. I've really enjoyed playing in the Valley the past two seasons and this is where I wanted to stay."
Even as the four-year ownership saga laboured on, the Coyotes have shown signs of stability over the past few weeks, signing Maloney, assistant GM Brad Treliving, coach Dave Tippett and his assistants in recent weeks. Phoenix also signed captain Shane Doan before the 2012-13 season and locked up young defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with a long-term deal in March.