On Saturday, Oct. 31, Phoenix Coyotes GM Bobby Smith shocked local
fans and perhaps his colleagues by sending center Cliff Ronning and
highly touted prospect defenseman Richard Lintner to the expansion
Nashville Predators for future considerations.
Local speculation was that the promising future of Daniel Briere was
being hindered by a lack of playing time. Ronning was in the final
year of his contract and scheduled to become an unrestricted free
agent at the end of the season. The move opened up the center
position on the second line with Rick Tocchet and Greg Adams, and
now Briere is playing regularly.
The fact to consider, however, was that the Coyotes were determined
to keep the team payroll where it was a season ago, between the $26
and $27 million mark. When Keith Tkachuk signed a one-year
extension during the preseason, his new deal included a raise this
season of $1.3 million, a raise that escalated payroll over the $28
million mark. Ronning's salary of $1.35 million seemed to be
expendable, and put the team back to within their budget. Ronning
was off to a good start with two goals and five assists. Since
moving to Nashville, in two games he has yet to score.
Lintner, who will turn 21 on Nov. 15, was a fifth-round pick of the
Coyotes in the 1996 entry draft. The 6- foot-3, 194-pound
defenseman scored 15 points (six goals) in 71 games with
Springfield (AHL) last season.
In other news, the Coyotes are off to their best start since the
1982-83 season as the Winnipeg Jets. In a 3-1 victory over the
Detroit Red Wings on Friday, Nov. 6, the Coyotes bettered their
record to 6-2-1, and placed themselves firmly in second place
behind the Dallas Stars in the Pacific Division of the Western
Head coach Jim Schoenfeld has adopted a five-man rotation for his
defensive corps, using Oleg Tverdovsky, Teppo Numminen, Keith
Carney, Jyrki Lumme, and Gerald Diduck. Each player is seeing about
the same amount of ice time each night, and they are playing very
well, having allowed a league-low 15 goals in nine games.
Keith Tkachuk and Jeremy Roenick are atop the scoring pile as
expected since being paired up on the top line. Goaltender Nikolai
Khabibulin is appearing to be in all-star form early as well. Since
allowing four goals on opening night against the Ottawa Senators,
Khabibulin has allowed only 10 goals in seven other contests, and
not more than two goals in any of them.
The schedule for the Coyotes has been a strange one early in the
season. So far they have played in back to back games only once,
and the rest of the games have been separated by a minimum of three
days off. When December starts, the Coyotes will enjoy only one
more three-day break until the All Star Game, after which they will
not see another one until the first week of April.
New Arena on the Horizon?
The Phoenix Coyotes have joined forces with The Ellman Companies and
are attempting to make a new, 20,000 seat arena part of a
redevelopment project in south Scottsdale. The existing mall
features 609,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 3200 parking spots.
The new project will have a variety of features, including the
154,000 sq. ft. Home Improvement Center
14 to 16 screen Multiplex Cinema
60,000 sq. ft. grocery store
100,000 sq. ft. of new restaurants
600,000 sq. ft. of retail stores and shops
150,000 to 200,000 sq. ft. conference center
20,000 seat multi-purpose arena
45,000 sq. ft. public ice rink
240,000 sq ft. of office space
43,000 sq. ft. health facility
14,000 free parking spaces
New car wash
The project will not use taxpayer dollars to pay for it, however the
companies involved will be seeking a tax break after the project is
complete. This means a portion of the sales taxes that the project
itself generates will be used to pay back the parties involved.
The surrounding neighborhoods have been questioned and as of the
latest tally, were in favor of such a redevelopment project by 80
percent to 20 percent. The southern section of Scottsdale known as
Los Arcos on the corner of Scottsdale and McDowell Roads, was at
one time the hot spot in the Valley. Since the explosion of
northern Scottsdale, the area in question has been neglected and is
considerably run down.
The Coyotes are stressing that this project was scheduled to happen
with or without them, and should not be looked upon as an arena
draped in a shopping plaza, but rather as a way for them to
participate in a project that will help redevelop the south part of
Scottsdale and solidify their future in the Valley of the Sun.
Team officials will be participated in a presentation Nov. 9 at the
Scottsdale City Hall. People were encouraged to come and show their
support for the project. Apparently, convincing the city of
Scottsdale is the only bridge left to cross in order for this
project to move forward. The Coyotes expect an official decision to
be made by February.
The Coyotes are currently in the third year of a five-year lease at
America West Arena in Phoenix. AWA was opened in 1993 and is also
the home of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury professional basketball
teams, Arizona Rattlers arena football team, and also hosts several
concerts and other events throughout the year. AWA is a beautiful
building with many great amenities and features, however when
hosting an NHL hockey game, there are approximately 4,300 seats
with some sort of obstructed view.
The new arena would be unique, seating 20,000 people for hockey, and
having a free parking lot, as well. It will be built right into the
retail experience, and the plaza and main concourse will be an
active part of the project. A team store will also be included with
access from both the arena and the mall. Another plan calls for the
arena to be centered in the middle of the site, and sinking lower
in the ground to reduce the impact of the scale while keeping it
within local height ordinances.
This all sounds too good to be true. A new plaza that will include
an arena, and yet the taxpayers will not have to pay for it up
front. The only thing standing in the way is the city of
Scottsdale. If anyone on the board or council could say no to such
an endeavor, one that would revitalize a dying part of their
community at no expense to them or the taxpayers, they are truly
insane and need to be removed from office. However, this is
Arizona, and usually that means no matter what the case is, someone
will have something negative to say about it before it is over and
done with. Stay tuned...