If you watched Mike Smith’s performance at the IIHF World Championships with mixed emotions, your reaction, as a Coyotes fan, was understandable. On the one hand, it was encouraging to see Smith regain the level of play that made him one of the NHL’s best players down the stretch of the 2011-12 season and in the postseason. On the flip side, it showcased his ability for a number of teams that need goaltenders or may need goaltenders if/when they cut ties with their current personnel. While some wondered if Smith was taking an injury risk by playing in the tournament when his contract is set to expire on June 30, others, including Smith, saw it through another lens. “If you’re worrying about injuries while playing, that’s the wrong way to approach it,” he said Saturday morning by phone from Stockholm, Sweden. “In my situation, I had a chance to play for my country with some of the world’s best players on an international stage that I had never experienced before. I definitely gained a lot from that experience.” Not the least of which was renewed respect from NHL general managers who may come calling this summer. Canada lost in the quarterfinals for a fourth straight year, but Smith was tied with Sweden’s Jhonas Enroth for the highest save percentage in the tournament after the quarterfinals at .944. “Pucks were hitting me, for the most part,” Smith said, laughing. “But the truth is, I felt comfortable. It took me a period in the first game I played to get the nerves out and get used to the ice. After that, I felt I had a good handle on the size of the ice and the way the game is played over here.” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett had the same view from Team Canada’s bench, even though he knew the price of his free-agent goalie was rising before his eyes. “Always a good thing,” Tippett texted from Stockholm, when asked if Smith’s performance drew mixed emotions. “He played very well.” As with any player set to become a free agent, Smith has value judgments he has made and is currently making about his future. If the right prospective owner buys the Coyotes and can manage to sign general manager Don Maloney and Tippett to new deals, Smith and his wife, Brigitte, might want to build a life in the Phoenix area for the next several years. But every day that passes without a resolution to the ownership situation makes it more likely that Smith will test his value on the free-agent market, which opens for business on July 5 this year -- four days later than normal due to the lockout. If you’ve been following the ownership stories, you know a resolution won’t likely come this month. The NHL has yet to choose a buyer for the team. Once it does, that buyer will still need to work out an arena management deal with the City of Glendale, and even then, the process may not be completely over. City officials have said that they hope to have a deal done by the end of May, but a source with keen knowledge of the situation said that simply isn’t going to happen.
With value raised, Mike Smith seems unlikely to return to Phoenix
Fox Sports Arizona | May 18