GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mike Smith had been a cornerstone of Arizona’s franchise during six seasons in the desert, leading the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference finals and earning his first trip to the NHL All-Star Game last season.
Now he’s headed back to his native Canada, where he hopes to be the No. 1 goaltender the Calgary Flames have needed.
The Coyotes traded their top goalie to the Flames on Saturday for the rights to unrestricted free-agent goalie Chad Johnson, defensive prospect Brandon Hickey and a conditional 2018 third-round pick that could become a second-rounder if the Flames make the playoffs.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m coming off one of the better seasons of my NHL career last year and just have learned a lot about my game over the course of the last six seasons in Arizona and throughout the course of my career. I really feel like I can bring that to Calgary and be a leader.”
Smith was the catalyst of Arizona’s run to the conference finals during his first season with the Coyotes, anchoring coach Dave Tippett’s close-to-the-vest defensive style with often spectacular saves.
Smith has been up and down since then, struggling with injuries and inconsistencies at times as the Coyotes failed to reach the playoffs in five straight seasons. He had one of the better seasons of his career on a struggling team a year ago, earning a spot in the NHL All-Star Game during a season in which he finished 19-26-9 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
In 11 seasons with the Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning, Smith has a 2.70 GAA and .913 save percentage. He has two years remaining on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $5.67 million, with the Coyotes absorbing 25 percent of that.
“Having somebody that’s been a No. 1 and had to deal with all the things that No. 1 guys have to deal with, has had the workload, those were the things that were important to us,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “And ultimately I think he’s a good goaltender. We think he’s still got a lot of gas left in the tank, and I think he’s going to come in and help us.”
While the trade gives Calgary the starter it was looking for, it leaves Arizona in need of a new No. 1 goalie after completing this deal prior to the NHL’s trade freeze for the Vegas expansion draft.
Arizona’s roster has skewed younger in recent years as the franchise has gone through a rebuilding process, and the team likely will be in the market for a younger goalie to anchor its future.
“Mike Smith is a 35-year-old goaltender,” Coyotes GM John Chayka said on a conference call. “When some of our players are reaching their prime years, then he’s probably on the wrong side of his career.”
The Coyotes can protect Johnson in the expansion draft, though there is no certainty about whether they’ll re-sign the 31-year-old or let him test the market July 3. Chayka said he’ll consider a variety of options to get a goaltender.
“With expansion, there are a lot of unprotected goalies out there,” Chayka said. “Vegas doesn’t need 10. They only need a couple, and there’s opportunities for trades from that perspective.”
Hickey, 21, was a third-round pick of the Flames in 2014 and has played the past three seasons at Boston University.