PITTSBURGH — When contract talks break down in professional sports and an athlete leaves a team, he’ll often say it wasn’t just about money. In Mikkel Boedker’s case, there was likely some legitimacy to that claim.
Boedker’s eight-year Coyotes tenure ended on Monday when Arizona traded the impending free agent right winger to Colorado for 36-year-old forward Alex Tanguay and a pair of unsigned prospects, center Conner Bleackley and defenseman Kyle Wood.
General manager Don Maloney said the Coyotes offered Boedker a few options “with term and dollars” to try and sign him. Two sources told Today’s Slapshot that the Coyotes offered five years at an average annual value of $5.5 million, but another source said Monday that the final offer was for six years at an average annual value just above $5 million.
When it became clear to Maloney that Boedker’s camp would not agree to the team’s terms, it was time to pursue trades.
“If I thought there was a remote chance we could have signed him before July 1, that might have given me pause,” Maloney said. “It’s business and I understand it. He’s a good player and he’s earned his right to be a free agent.”
While money clearly was the sticking point between the two sides, at least two additional factors may have influenced Boedker’s decision to press for more financial security than what the Coyotes thought was a fair offer.
“There’s a lot more things that come into play besides money,” Boedker’s agent, Jarrett Bousquet said Monday. “One of the questions we’ve always had is surrounding this team’s situation in the desert. What’s their future?”
When Boedker signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal last summer as a restricted free agent, both Bousquet and Maloney said the team’s uncertain arena situation played a role. Coyotes CEO and president Anthony LeBlanc later cited Boedker’s refusal to sign a longer deal as a reason the team chose to sign a two-year lease with the City of Glendale, rather than fighting the city’s decision to void its original, 15-year arena lease and management agreement in court.
“The real crystallizing moment for us… was the day that we signed Mikkel Boedker and he would only go as far as a one-year deal,” LeBlanc said. “We got together as an ownership group and said, ‘this is not the way we can run a hockey team.'”
The other factor that Boedker admitted played a role was the chance to go to a team with an accelerated timeline for winning. It’s no secret the Coyotes are in rebuilding mode. Boedker is 26. Despite the impending arrival of some key prospects, the Coyotes timeline is realistically still three to four years out.
Colorado may not be that far ahead of Arizona, but Boedker can still become a free agent this summer so there’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign with the Avs.
Here’s what Boedker said when asked if winning sooner entered his thought process when opting not to re-sign.
“Definitely. You always want to see your options. You always want to pursue where the value is for you and were you can be a successful player.
“Winning is a big part of sports and it’s a big part of being an athlete. You always want to win and you want to play on a winning team and that’s something that had to do with the decision.”
The comments didn’t sit well with the Coyotes fan base, particularly after Boedker managed just one goal and nine points in his last 25 games, but it’s a fair assessment of his situation.
Even so, Boedker said that late in the process, he was still hoping to re-sign with Arizona.
“I was open, definitely,” he said. “I never shut the door. For the first little while I was determined to stay and see this thing through. The further it went, the clearer it got that it was going to come to this.
“It wasn’t about greed or money or anything like that. I’m not a greedy person…It just didn’t work out and that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
Outsiders can look at the offers made to Boedker and make their own assessments. There is also the possibility that three previous failed negotiations soured Boedker on dealing with Maloney.
Bousquet said the negotiations always remained cordial. In the end, the two sides simply couldn’t find a common ground on key issues and a number of others, which he did not detail.
“I have to thank Don and the Coyotes and the team,” Bousquet said. “I think we both did our best to try to get things done. It was just one of those things where there were disagreements that couldn’t be resolved and it ended up the way it is.”
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